'Narco cops' spoiled PNP-led drug war, says Dela Rosa

MANILA, Philippines – Where did the Philippine National Police (PNP) go wrong when it led the Duterte administration's war on drugs?

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa's response does not stray from what drug war critics and human rights advocates have been saying: "narco cops."

He said in a news briefing in Camp Crame on Friday, November 17, that the police should have undertaken internal cleansing first before it's all-out war on illegal drugs.

"Inaamin namin na hindi pa rin namin totally na-cleanse 'yung aming ranks before we waged the war on drugs. Dapat sana na-cleanse muna namin 'yung aming ranks bago kami bumanat sa war on drugs para hindi masakyan ng mga hunyango na mga narco cops," Dela Rosa said.

(We admit that we had not totally cleansed our ranks before we waged the war on drugs. We should have cleansed our ranks before we waged the war on drugs so that scalawag narco cops would not be part of it.)

Dela Rosa made the assessment a month after President Rodrigo Duterte removed the PNP from anti-drug operations, and named the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the "sole agency" in the campaign.

The PNP chief had previously admitted his difficulty in reforming the police force because of the presence of corrupt cops. On at least two occasions in Senate hearings, he cried while responding to questions about eroding public trust in the police after the spate of killings in the drug war. (READ: Dela Rosa cries at Senate probe: 'Ako'y hirap na hirap na')

Some policemen have been suspected of killing drug suspects during raids as they the cops themselves were linked to illegal drugs. Kin of drug war victims, as well as a survivor of a police raid had filed petitions against Oplan TokHang before the Supreme Court.

Last year, a police team killed Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr and another inmate at a Leyte jail cell, in what the National Bureau of Investigation tagged as a "rubout."

In August, a string of teen killings during police raids grabbed national attention for and sparked outrage. Cops claimed the boys fought back, but investigators claimed they were killed defenseless. (READ: Kian and Carl: What the deaths of two boys have in common)

Right before the PNP was taken off the drug war, the Social Weathers Stations announced a drop in the Duterte's net trust and satisfaction ratings, which the SWS attributed to his war on drugs. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.