Why Dela Rosa can't dismiss narco cops right away

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa may have the power to dismiss outright cops found to have committed even minor offenses, but it’s a power he doesn’t want to wield, he told reporters on Thursday, November 24.

“That’s right, I have the power of summary dismissal right away. I can dismiss cops once the facts are established even without a full blown hearing. But in most cases, based on my experience in the service, that power is used as a technicality against us so that scalawag cops get back in service,” Dela Rosa said on the sidelines of a House hearing into the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

The country's top cop made the statement a day after alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa claimed that several Leyte cops – including the Albuera town police chief and the cop who headed the police operation that led to the death of his father, the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr – had links to his illegal drugs business.

Espinosa claimed before the Senate that he also gave protection money to Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina, former director of Police Regional Office 8.

At the Senate, Dela Rosa promised that the PNP, through the Internal Affairs Service (IAS), would investigate and pursue cases against cops named by the alleged drug lord.

Police can be charged with administrative cases before the Ombudsman, IAS, the National Police Commission (Napolcom), or the People’s Law Enforcement Board, among others. Sanctions can range from temporary suspension, withheld salaries, to dismissal.

Republic Act 8551 or the PNP Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 states that the  PNP chief “shall have the power to impose the disciplinary punishment of dismissal from the service; suspension or forfeiture of salary; or any combination thereof for a period not exceeding one hundred eighty (180) days.”

As PNP chief, Dela Rosa also has the power to place under “restrictive custody” personnel with pending “grave administrative cases” or those charged with criminal cases.

This power, however, is rarely used. According to Dela Rosa, this method of sanctioning cops can sometimes work in favor of police officers involved in illegal activities.

“They’ll just say that there’s no due process because they were dismissed right away. They’ll just appeal before Napolcom or appellate board and that’s usually granted right away. They get back in service and these cops just laugh at us,” he explained.

Full-blown hearings, explained Dela Rosa, are the only sure way to avoid questions of propriety and the lack of due process, which could set erring cops free.

Dela Rosa broke down at a Senate inquiry on Wednesday after he was asked how he would act on the problem of corrupt police and the subsequent loss of public trust in the PNP. He admitted he was having a "very difficult" time cleansing the police force.

Early in his term, Dela Rosa ordered mass reassignments of cops suspected of having links to illegal drugs. He also overhauled most top positions inside Camp Crame and the rest of the country immediately after he was appointed PNP chief on July 1, 2016. – Rappler.com