Lacson hits 'double standard, double talk' in war on drugs
MANILA, Philippines – “Change can't come this way.”
Philippine Senator and former police chief Panfilo Lacson had choice words for the current head of the Philippine National Police (PNP), following reports that several police alleged to have “premeditated” the death of alleged drug personality Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr were allowed to leave Camp Crame.
Superintendent Marvin Marcos and 17 other police personnel were allowed to fly back to Leyte, where they were once based, to get documents for their counter-affidavits.
Marcos approved and led a Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 operation to serve a search warrant against Espinosa inside his jail cell.
Espinosa allegedly shot at police, prompting them to fire back. He was killed alongside another inmate. The incident has been tagged a case of extrajudicial killing by several politicians, including Lacson himself.
“Yes, it's frustrating. At a time when [PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa] shot himself in the foot by unnecessarily announcing that he relented after somebody interceded for Marcos' reinstatement in spite of prior information that he himself revealed to have received that the police official was receiving payola money from a drug syndicate in Leyte, now he released them from restrictive custody and even allowed them to be back in Leyte,” said Lacson in a text message to Rappler.
He added: “Now I'm starting to doubt the sincerity of a drug war that has so far netted at least 4k killed, more than 20k arrested and more than 800k surrendered. I now have serious reservations that it will succeed. Talk about double standard; talk about double talk. Change can't come this way.”
The controversy over Marcos and the CIDG 8 team have now boiled over to a time even before Espinosa was killed. (READ: Espinosa case: Why were Marcos and team moved to CIDG 8?)
Dela Rosa, in an interview earlier this week, revealed that he had sacked Marcos from his post in CIDG 8 after the arrest of Espinosa’s son Kerwin in Abu Dhabu mid-October.
Police who went there to secure Kerwin reported that Marcos was part of the alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord’s payroll.
But Dela Rosa’s plan was blocked by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself. Duterte told Dela Rosa not to remove Marcos because he was “doing an investigative job.”
Dela Rosa did as he was told.
Weeks later, Marcos would lead the operation against Espinosa inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City. Marcos and his men were eventually sacked from their posts and placed under restrictive custody in Camp Crame, Quezon City – up until this week.
As far as Lacson is concerned, allowing Marcos and his team to return to Leyte was a horrible idea.
“[Dela Rosa] should have discerned that there are witnesses there who will be cowering in fear by the mere sight of Marcos and his team in Baybay. Imagine what the inmates and the jail guards who executed affidavits are feeling now that the group are back in their midst,” he added.
Lacson is no stranger to attempts of ridding the PNP of scalawags. During his term as PNP chief, he led efforts to remove “kotong cops” or those who used their positions of power to extort money.
“One can't succeed in any fight with a double standard. Once consistency is lost, you can't succeed in reforming. And if you can't reform, the fight is lost,” said the senator, who even met with Dela Rosa prior to officially assuming the post.
During a Senate probe into Espinosa's death, Dela Rosa broke down in tears when asked what concrete steps he would take to address problems within the PNP that had eroded public trust. While most senators then were sympathetic to Dela Rosa, Lacson responded with advice.
"If there's anyone here who understands law enforcement, ako 'yon (that would be me). I can speak for myself. We can give you so much leeway. Pero 'pag masyadong blatant na (But if it's too blatant already), with impunity, the chief PNP should do something….'Pag hindi ka kumilos mahahawa ang iba (If you don't act, the others will do the same and be contaminated)."
Lacson said there should be an "elastic limit, a threshold" in conducting police operations. "Hindi puwedeng larga-larga na lang tayo (We can't just do things haphazardly)," he said.
The two men, both products of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), have worked together in the past. Lacson was Dela Rosa’s boss in the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com