Philippine National Police

Who are the high-ranking police tagged in P6.7-B shabu mess?

Jairo Bolledo

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Who are the high-ranking police tagged in P6.7-B shabu mess?

NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS. The Philippine National Police's headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City taken on February 27, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Interior chief Abalos names the high-ranking cops who allegedly covered up the arrest of a cop during a buy bust operation in 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos revealed on April 10 that high ranking police officers, including two police generals, are suspected to be part of the P6.7 billion shabu (methamphetamine) mess.

According to the interior chief who oversees the Philippine National Police (PNP), there is a “massive attempt” to cover up the arrest of Police Master Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo Jr., who was arrested in 2022 over a drug den that had one ton of shabu. Abalos revealed names of the said police officers who might have had an involvement in the alleged cover up.

Mayo was an intelligence officer of the PNP’s Drug Enforcement Group (PNP DEG), the police unit tasked to lead the anti-drug campaign of the government.

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As early as Mayo’s arrest in 2022, PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said that Mayo could just be one of many cops who might be involved in the illegal drug trade. The top cop added he believes the trade “is not just up to the level” of Mayo.

Rappler listed the high-ranking PNP officers mentioned by Abalos and important information related to them.

Lieutenant General Benjamin Santos Jr.

The highest ranking police officer mentioned by Abalos is Police Lieutenant General Benjamin Santos Jr., who once served as PNP’s Deputy Chief for Operations (TDCO) or the national police’s No. 3 man. During his press conference on April 10, Abalos said a closed circuit television footage (CCTV) showed that some high-ranking police officers were seen on the buy bust site on the day Mayo was arrested.

Santos, along with PNP DEG director Brigadier General Narciso Domingo and other officers, were spotted in the said CCTV footage.

But prior to his involvement in the issue, Santos held the third highest PNP post at the same time President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. named Azurin as his new PNP chief in August last year. As TDCO, Santos assisted Azurin in enforcing the mandate of the national police and oversaw the operations of the national police.

Before he was named the PNP’s No. 3 man, Santos first led the PNP’s Directorate for Comptrollership.

Santos was only promoted to three star rank, when President Marcos approved his promotion, along with 12 other senior PNP officers. He was promoted from the rank of major general to lieutenant general – just one star behind Azurin – in October 2022.

Before his stint at the PNP’s national headquarters, Santos was assigned to lead the Cebu City police in 2016 after serving under the office of former Central Visayas regional police director Police Lieutenant General Marcelo Garbo Jr.

In February this year, months before Abalos’ revelation, Santos was relieved from his post in a special order dated February 22, 2023, and was replaced by then-Major General Jonnel Estomo. Azurin then said Santos was relieved because he was assigned to the Office of the Chief PNP while waiting for his new task.

Santos was supposed to retire in October 2023, but he already bowed out from the police service in March, according to various local news reports. But in a message to Rappler on April 11, PNP Public Information Office chief Colonel Redrico Maranan clarified that the police general has yet to retire.

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When Abalos asked PNP generals and colonels to submit courtesy resignations as part of the PNP’s efforts to purge cops suspected of having drug links, Santos was also among the first officers to heed the call. He submitted his courtesy resignation, along with Azurin and other members of the PNP command group.

In addition, as early as October 2022, the PNP also started probing into two police generals who had alleged links to illegal drugs, according to a report by the Philippine News Agency. The PNP did not name the generals back then.

Santos is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy and belongs to Sambisig class of 1991.

Brigadier General Narciso Domingo

Domingo is the director of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group.

His unit leads the operations of the national police against illegal drugs. The PNP DEG is also mandated to conduct operations against local and foreign syndicates engaged in the production, importation, and trafficking of illegal drugs in the country.

When Azurin took the top PNP post in August 2022, Domingo was appointed PNP DEG director. Prior to that, he served as deputy regional director for administration of the Central Luzon regional police. He also worked under the National Capital Region Police Office.

Under Domingo’s watch as PNP DEG director, his unit led the following major anti-drug operations: Seizure of P408-million worth of shabu in Pampanga, discovery of P84.4-million worth of marijuana in Kalinga, and the seizure of P21 million worth of various illegal drugs recovered in PNP anti-drug operations from November 21 to 27.

But it was also during his time when Mayo was arrested by the PNP. Despite this, Azurin said last January that he did not see any reason to relieve Domingo.

Responding to the recent allegation he faces, Domingo said on April 11 that he and other cops will file for a leave of absence to give way to the probe into Mayo’s arrest. Domingo also denied any cover-up in the cop’s arrest, but admitted there were lapses in their procedures.

The PNP DEG director explained that these lapses were part of their tactical move to arrest another group of drug suspects – a move only revealed by Mayo when he was arrested.

Domingo belongs to the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Tagapagpatupad class of 1992. He was also a “Lakan” awardee, the highest honor given to PNPA alumni, according to the PNPA Alumni Association.

Colonel Julian Olonan

Police Colonel Julian Olonan is the current chief of PDEG’s Special Operations Unit (SOU) in the Calabarzon area.

Prior to joining the PNP DEG, Olonan worked for the Manila Police District’s (MPD) anti-illegal drugs special operation task force in 2013. He also served as chief of the San Jose municipal police in Occidental Mindoro in 2019, and acting chief of the Tanza, Cavite police in 2022.

Also responding to the allegations against him, Olonan said on April 11 that they planned to use information from Mayo to get another warehouse in Pasig allegedly containing suspected drugs.

Aside from the three high-ranking officers, the following cops were also named by Abalos:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Arnulfo Ibañez – officer in charge, PNP DEG SOU Metro Manila
  • Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Gonzales – from Quezon City Police District
  • Lieutenant Colonel Harry Lorenzo III – Moriones station commander, MPD
  • Major Michael Angelo Salmingo – from PNP DEG SOU Metro Manila
  • Captain Jonathan Sosongco – PNP DEG SOU Calabarzon
  • Captain Randolph Piñon – intelligence section chief, PNP DEG SOU Calabarzon
  • Lieutenant Ashrap Amerol – intel officer, PNP DEG intelligence and foreign liaison division
Why this matters

When Abalos asked the high-ranking PNP officers to file courtesy resignations, he clarified that the resignation of those with proven ties to the illegal drug trade will be accepted. Authorities have yet to find stronger evidence or provide more details about the allegations surrounding Santos and the others.

In addition, Abalos and Azurin’s campaign against the illegal drug trade from within the national police gave birth to the PNP’s five-man committee that will review all the records of cops. Over two months since the body was formed, the five-man committee has yet to conclude its screening process.

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Recently, on March 28, Azurin said the body was already able to screen 90% of the senior police officers. On April 5, Abalos said 36 police officers are still being probed into by the committee.

Abalos’ recent revelation also proved that the country still faces problems in relation to the illegal drug trade, which also involves authorities like cops. The PNP is one of the agencies leading the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and yet cops were tagged in the recent shabu mess.

The problem with illegal drugs also persisted despite the thousands of people killed under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte. Government data show that at least 6,252 individuals were killed in police anti-drug operations between July 2016 and May 31, 2022.

But for human rights groups the number could range between 27,000 to 30,000 to include those killed vigilante-style. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.