I DON’T think the Philippine National Police’s image has been so tarnished, its ranks so demoralized as never before, because of events in the past several months.
In October, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr., who supervises the PNP as chairman of the National Police Commission, boasted that the police had seized 990 kilograms of the mind-destroying, addictive shabu with an estimated street value of P6.7 billion. He said this was the biggest drug haul in the country.
Out of the blue, on April 10, Abalos claimed that there was a “massive attempt to cover up” the involvement of Police Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo, in whose lending-business office in Manila the huge shabu haul was discovered and seized. Worse, Abalos claimed that about 42 kg out of the haul had been pilfered, which would have a street value of P250 million.
Soon after that, CCTV videos circulated among congressmen, and eventually to media, showing suitcases — presumably containing the pilfered shabu — being brought out from Mayo’s office. It also showed ranking police officials first taking Mayo to a vehicle in handcuffs, and then bringing him out of it without.
However, on April 17, PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. — who retired on April 24 — said Abalos, his boss, was being fooled. “So I now appeal to our Secretary of Interior and Local Government, let us focus on the real enemy — who are the shabu and drug syndicates. Let me also call the kind attention of our SILG, to take a second look [at] who may be feeding him wrong information to cast doubt on the PNP organization under his authority,” Azurin said in a press conference at Camp Crame.
Azurin had ordered the creation of a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) 990 to uncover the circumstances of the pilferage of 42 kg of the seized drugs.
In so many words, Azurin was claiming that the “real enemy” was the drug lords, and they were feeding Abalos with the “wrong attention.” Abalos did not respond to Azurin’s claims.
BGen. Narciso Domingo led the PNP’s Drug Enforcement Group that discovered and seized the shabu haul. But he and his officers are now accused of pilfering the 42 kg and releasing Mayo. In a hearing of the House committee on dangerous drugs last April 26, Domingo echoed Azurin’s claim and said in a prepared statement:
“I’m afraid, your honors, that the drug syndicates who had this 1.032 ton of shabu that we seized and who are still with the PNP, succeeded in redirecting the course of the investigation, which as they saw it was already going to them, they made some strategies that in the course of investigation will make a complete U-turn. Now it is directed against me,” he said.
Domingo also said: “I am afraid that the biggest drug haul so far of the government now pending in court will be dismissed and one morning we will wake up looking at Sgt. Mayo going out of jail because of these proceedings.”
That statement was unfortunate, as Rep. Romeo Acop — a former police general who had badgered Domingo and his associates obviously to prove their guilt — reprimanded the police general for claiming that, and pointed out that if Mayo is acquitted, “it is because of you not us.”
I was actually surprised at Domingo’s defense, in particular that the 990 kg of shabu had been inventoried and had even been destroyed, while the 42 kg claimed to have been pilfered had also been similarly accounted for. He claimed that Mayo had been released with Azurin’s approval, and in order to lead his operatives to another warehouse where a bigger amount of shabu was reportedly stored. Acop, however, pointed out that what Domingo’s operatives actually did was merely to serve a warrant of arrest to somebody suspected of being a big-time drug dealer.
The investigative task force last April 16 recommended that criminal and administrative charges be brought against Domingo, and 48 of his officers and men suspected of having had a hand in the pilferage of the 42 kg of shabu out of the 1,1032 kilograms seized in October.
This episode has three very troubling aspects.
First, if Domingo and his officers are guilty of the pilferage, this obviously points to the reality of allegations raised and rumors circulating for some time now, that the scourge of illegal drugs hasn’t been defeated since a portion of seized drugs are pilfered by the police themselves, to be sold back to the drug syndicates. Even with the strict procedures of inventorying seized illegal drugs, how could this happen?
Second, if Domingo and his men are innocent, and his claim that it is the drug lords who have undertaken this plot to discredit him are true, then we probably have a much bigger problem: That the drug syndicates are so powerful they can retaliate against police officers who have been successful in going after them. Domingo even claims that the drug lords have PNP officials under their pay.
Indeed, I find it suspicious that a CCTV video showing Domingo’s men bringing suitcases (presumably containing the pilfered shabu) and releasing Mayo was taken and released to congressmen and media. Now, who would have had that CCTV looking out from Mayo’s lending-business office as some sort of alert system, if not the drug lords who brought the shabu there?
Third, it is appalling that committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives undertook public hearings on the accusations against Domingo and his policemen. These committees aren’t investigative bodies that can ferret out the truth of the allegations. Several members of these committees were also obviously on a power trip and playing to the gallery “in aid of reelection” as it were, badgering and insulting the police officers, who obviously had very limited English-speaking skills.
The televised hearings even served to portray to the public how bad the PNP was, with generals and colonels being accused of stealing seized shabu, and accusing each other of such crimes. After this episode, I would bet confidence in the police would be practically zero.
If the hearings lead to new legislation it should be first, for the PNP Academy to make sure its graduates can articulate themselves, and second, ban on public hearings that involve criminal investigation.
Indeed the hearings — televised and streamed in demand in YouTube — was a trial by publicity. What if Domingo and the other 48 accused police offices and men turn out to be innocent? It would take months and even a year before a trial to determine the truth can start. The process of filing charges in court haven’t even started, as Azurin’s “Special Investigation Task Group” would have to ask the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service to assess its report and undertake its own investigation, after which the justice department determines if the PNP accusations are correct, for it to file the cases in court.
In the meantime, Domingo and his men are presumed guilty. And what if Domingo’s claim that it is the drug lords who are behind the accusations is true? I would think the PNP officers would hesitate in going after them to end the drug scourge in this country.
The PNP is so fucked up as never before. And it doesn’t seem to worry the higher-ups in government.
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