Defense chief thumbs down deployment of erring cops to Marawi

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Why send problematic police to critical areas in Mindanao?

No less than the defense chief and administrator of martial law in Mindanao expressed his "personal" objection to sending erring cops to Mindanao – a recurring form of punishment under the Duterte administration.

Personally sana huwag kasi (I’d rather not)….Personally lang ha (This is just my personal opinion)," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a press conference in Marawi City on Thursday, July 6, when asked about the deployment of two Mandaluyong cops to Marawi as punishment for their abusive behavior.

Lorenzana explained his position. 

"There was a time when I was the commander in Davao. Then I heard they’re going to send scalawags to Mindanao. Sabi ko, hindi (I said no). We need the best people here. We need the best people to fight this war,” he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) this week sent to Marawi City two Mandaluyong policemen who were caught hurting men they had nabbed for violating a barangay (village) curfew.

One of the cops was caught on camera hitting one of the men with a stick, sparking outrage among netizens. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa ordered the policemen’s transfer to Marawi City, where government forces have been battling terrorists for over a month.

This did not sit well with Provincial Crisis Management Committee spokesperson and regional assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, who tweeted, “Hindi po tayo dito basurahan para sa mga abusado at tiwaling pulis ng Metro Manila (We are not a dumping site for abusive and corrupt police of Metro Manila).”

“It's quite offensive to treat us like a trash bin for abusive cops. And to use the Marawi Siege as a punishment shows insensitivity. Erring cops should be sued with administrative case. What they need is to face accountability not temporary punishment,” Adiong added.

In February 2017, the PNP deployed cops with pending cases – ranging from recurring tardiness to alleged involvement in the drug trade – to Mindanao.

During the briefing, Lorenzana, a retired military officer who was once based in Davao City, added: “We need some good people, volunteers to come here to help in the problem. So when you throw people here who are problematic, bibigyan lang natin ng problema ang commanders dito (they will just add to the problems of the commanders here).”

Lorenzana, who was with Dela Rosa during the press conference in Marawi City, clarified in a text message to reporters after the briefing that he was just expressing his opinion about the practice, since the PNP was not under his jurisdiction.

"I am just questioning the wisdom of doing so. Their punishment should not be Marawi assignment but sanctions such as suspension without pay or outright dismissal from the service," the defense chief said, echoing the view of Adiong.

The PNP chief, in turn, defended his decision, saying that after their Marawi assignment, the erring cops would be “the best cops they can even become.”

“I challenge mga media, makipagpustahan kayo sa 'kin. Tingnan natin kung mangyayantok pa 'yan dito. Sigurado ako ma reform yan….100%, magiging magagaling na pulis 'yan (I chalenge the media; let’s bet on this. Let’s see if they’ll still hit people with sticks after this. I’m sure they will be reformed. 100%, they will be good policemen),” said Dela Rosa, who himself spent most of his career in Mindanao.

Soldiers and police have been flushing out members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups from Marawi City since May 23. The clashes prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court. – Rappler.com