11 top Philippine cops have yet to quit amid push vs illicit drugs

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) on Monday said only 11 high-ranking Philippine police officers — three generals and eight colonels — had yet to resign as of Jan. 20, after a quit call that seeks to cleanse their ranks of links to the illegal drug trade.

Seven of the 11 officers are due for retirement this quarter, national police chief Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr. told a news briefing streamed live on Facebook. “Maybe they are still trying to discern whether they would still quit when they are retiring soon,” he said in Filipino.

“We still encourage them to submit [their courtesy resignations] so in some way, they can be totally cleared from whatever the outcome of the evaluation and review of individuals’ involvement in illegal drugs,” he added.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. this month urged all police colonels and generals to resign after a probe found many of them were involved in illegal drugs. A five-man committee is evaluating the record of each top cop who resigns.

The review could take as long as three months. The committee will then submit its recommendations to the National Police Commission, which Mr. Abalos heads.

He earlier said the review would be based on evidence.

Mr. Azurin said high-ranking officers who refuse to quit would still undergo review to determine if they are linked to the illegal drug trade.

“The PNP will be the one to study if there are indicators that they had been involved in illegal drug activities during their incumbency as third-level officers,” he said. Retiring officers who will be evaluated could still get retirement benefits.

“If a case is filed against them and there’s evidence that they’re involved, then the court will have the power to hold their pensions and benefits,” he added.

Human rights abuses continued in the first six months of Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s rule, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Jan. 12.

In a global report, the global watchdog said drug war killings, communist tagging and attacks against journalists continue to damage the country’s democratic institutions.

“President Marcos has sought to reassure the international community that he is committed to human rights,” it said. “Human rights and civil society groups, however, debunked these claims with reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council of continuing human rights violations.”

Law enforcers killed more than 6,000 drug suspects in police raids on July 1, 2016 to May 31 last year, HRW said, citing government data.

PRIORITYAfter Mr. Marcos took office, the government stopped releasing the statistics, the watchdog said. “The official death toll does not include those killed by unidentified gunmen whom Human Rights Watch and other rights monitors have credible evidence to believe operate in cooperation with local police and officials.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Azurin said police had seized about P81 million worth of illegal drugs in 1,831 drug operations from Jan. 1 to 16.

“Anti-illegal drug operations are among the priority operational thrusts of the PNP this year, with greater emphasis on demand reduction efforts through rehabilitation, treatment and training,” he said.

A total of 2,518 drug suspects were arrested, 146 of whom were considered high-value targets.

Law enforcers seized about P10 billion worth of illegal drugs in 24,000 drug operations last year, Interior Secretary Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr. earlier said. About 30,000 drug suspects were arrested under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration, which started in July.

Mr. Azurin said crimes fell by 24% or 2,600 to 8,391 on Jan. 1 to 21 from a year earlier. Index crimes went down by 30% or 674 to 1,576.

Experts have said the Marcos government should enforce the law and prosecute top generals with illegal drug ties instead of asking them to quit.

Fides M. Lim, a human rights advocate and convenor of the political prisoner group Kapatid, said the quit call would probably foster impunity.

Mr. Marcos told police in August to temper their use of force while enforcing the law. Mr. Abalos said in July the drug war would be “as intensive as before.”

The Philippines accepted more than 200 recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council in November, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists.

More than 30 member-states of the UN body urged the Marcos government to do something about the extralegal killings and rights abuses in its anti-illegal drug campaign. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and John Victor D. Ordoñez