How to get narco-politicians? Have police chiefs who ‘fight back’

Bea Cupin
How to get narco-politicians? Have police chiefs who ‘fight back’
The PNP chief says 'tough' chiefs of police have been assigned to areas where local chief executives with alleged ties to illegal drugs

MANILA, Philippines – The government has a simple plan against local chief executives with alleged ties to illegal drugs: assign city or municipal police chiefs who are willing to “fight” them.

“It’s the same strategy against Albuera Mayor Ronaldo Espinosa. We will assign a police chief who is tough, the kind who’ll fight back so they surrender,” Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said on Thursday, August 4, when asked about their strategy against mayors with alleged ties to the illegal drugs trade.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that several local chief executives themselves are either drug lords or drug lord protectors. Dela Rosa said the list is with the Chief Executive, who is a former Davao City mayor.

Espinosa, the mayor or Albuera town in Leyte, recently surrendered amid allegations that he coddles his son, supposed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

A recent police operation seized millions of illegal drugs from a basketball court near the Espinosa home. While the mayor has admitted his son’s involvement in drugs, he has denied having ties to the illegal trade himself.

Espinosa earlier alleged in an affidavit that the Albuera police chief had threatened his life, putting a stop to the mayor’s anti-illegal drugs efforts.

But Dela Rosa laughed off that allegation, pointing out that a person shouldn’t be threatened if he didn’t have anything to hide.

Espinosa is currently under Dela Rosa’s custody, and lives in the PNP chief’s official residence inside Camp Crame. Kerwin is still at large, but is supposedly set to surrender on Friday, August 5.

Duterte has yet to reveal his list of local chief executives with alleged ties to illegal drugs. But Dela Rosa said trusted officers have been assigned to those areas. 

“The other local chief executives are being monitored. They’re waiting for the right time, but someone is already covering them,” added Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa leads the PNP in its “intensified” campaign against illegal drugs. To date, over 400 drug suspects have been killed in police operations around the country.

But the campaign has had its fair share of critics. Congress is set to launch probes into alleged cases of extrajudicial killings during police operations. 

Dela Rosa has defended the PNP, pointing out that if cops don’t fight back, it would be their lives on the line. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.