War on drugs suspended, takes back seat in war against rogue cops

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(File photo) PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald Dela Rosa announced on Monday a suspension of the police's war against illegal drugs, amid controversy over rogue cops' involvement in the kidnap-slay of a South Korean businessman.

Dela Rosa said there are members of the PNP who abused "Project Tokhang," the police's flagship program supporting the government's six-month old campaign against illegal drugs.

He said they cannot continue with the war on drugs, until their ranks are cleansed of police who are sabotaging the anti-illegal drugs operation.

"May mga may sariling agenda na mga pulis. Masisira na naman tayo nito," Dela Rosa told reporters. [There are cops who have their own agenda. We will be ruined once more.]

The suspension comes days after shocking revelations in Senate and affidavits that police officials were involved in the kidnap-slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo last October.

Also read: Caught on video: Police allegedly planting evidence during raid

Jee was picked up by police from his home in Angeles City, Pampanga under the pretext of Oplan Tokhang. He was then killed within the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.

"Humanda kayo ngayon. Kayong masasama na pulis. Wala na kaming war on drugs, meron na kami ngayong war on scalawags. Lilinisin namin ang aming hanay ngayon, sa war on scalawags," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: You better be ready. All of you scalawags. We don't have our war on drugs anymore, but we have war on scalawags now. We will clean our ranks in the war on scalawags.]

Also read: Duterte apologizes to Koreans for kidnap-slay case

Task force created: 'One month' to clean ranks

Dela Rosa announced the creation of a counter-intelligence task force, a team primarily tasked to identify cops involved in illegal activities.

The team will be led by a PNP official with an unqestionable track record and will to weed out scalawags.

"Salang-sala ito, itong counter-intelligence task force. Sisiguraduhin natin na ang magiging leader nito is beyond question, beyond doubts. Kailangan malinis ito na tao at matapang. Kayang bumangga sa mga masasamang pulis," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: Those who will make-up the counter-intelligence task force will be screened thoroughly. We will make sure that their leader is beyond question, beyond doubts. We need to make sure that he/she is clean and courageous. That he/she is not afraid to go after scalawags.]

He expressed hope the PNP could do this in one month, so that the government's war on drugs would not remain in the backburner for long.

"I don't know how long it will take to cleanse the PNP. But with each and every one of us cooperating, magtutulungan kami, I'm sure kahit sabihin mo sigurong one month kaya naming gawin 'yan," he added. [But with each and every one of us cooperating, all of us helping each other, I'm sure we can do it in one month.]

Duterte's orders: Cleanse PNP, then continue war on drugs

Dela Rosa said it was President Duterte's marching orders to have him cleanse the PNP's ranks.

"'Linisin mo muna,' sabi ni Presidente, then after that, babalik sa war on drugs," Dela Rosa said. ["Clean it up first,' then after that, we'll go back to war on drugs.]

Despite this "momentary defeat," Dela Rosa said the PNP cannot afford to sacrifice their "moral and legal responsibilities" as law enforcers.

"Once we have cleansed our ranks and everything, we'll be ready to fight. Fight again another day," Dela Rosa said.

Asked if he would still accept law enforcers with records but claim to be "reformed," Dela Rosa said: "Ayoko na. [I'm done with them.]"

In the Senate investigation into the Korean's death, Dela Rosa told the hearing that SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel, the prime suspect in the Jee case had been tagged in a March 2007 kidnapping case in Caloocan City which was dismissed. Sta. Isabel has said he was falsely accused.

Dela Rosa also admits, the burden of the war on drugs had made him consider calls for his resignation. But President Rodrigo Duterte did not allow it.

"Malas ko naman. Makapag relax na sana ako, uuwi na sana ako ng Davao ngayon," Dela Rosa said.

"On the other hand, I thank the President for still trusting in me, for having his trust and confidence sa akin."

[Translation: It's unfortunate. I'm hoping that I could go back to Davao now and relax. On the otherhand, I thank the President for still trusting in me, for having his trust and confidence in me.]

Also read: Duterte seeks PNP revamp to get rid of corrupt cops

Reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP show, as of January 30 this year, a total of 43,497 operations have been conducted since July 2016 under "oplan Double Barrel Alpha," which is a joint operation of the police and military against illegal drugs.

A total of 2,551 persons said to be involved in illegal drugs have been killed, while 52,962 suspects have been arrested in "Oplan Double Barrel Alpha."

Thirty-five police personnel and three members of the AFP, have been killed in the operations, it added.

According to the PNP, more than 70 million households were already visited, with 1,178,224 pushers and users surrendering to authorities in Project Tokhang.

Senate suspends 'Tokhang for ransom' probe

Following the PNP suspension of "Project Tokhang," the Senate has also suspended its legislative inquiry on "'Tokhang'-for-ransom" issue.

"It is my view that the Senate wait and see how this latest development plays out. Having said that, I am suspending the hearings on the 'Tokhang'-for-ransom' issue," Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee chairman Senator Panfilo Lacson said.

Lacson added, he feels that the committee has "partially achieved one of the purposes of its legislative inquiry."

"The President has initially taken a positive action on the matter," Lacson said.

"It is now time to immediately attend to the pertinent legislative measures referred to the committee," he added.

Also read: DILG, police: War on drugs needs extension