Dela Rosa: Errant cops to report to Palace, clean Pasig River

MANILA, Philippines – From retraining to cleaning up water lilies along the Pasig River.

More than 300 errant cops who were supposed to undergo "retraining" will instead first report to President Rodrigo Duterte to, in Duterte's own words, "clean up the Pasig River."

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa announced this in a press conference at Camp Crame on Monday, February 6.

While Dela Rosa said he has yet to receive Duterte's "final guidance," he added that police liaison officer to Malacañang Senior Superintendent Filmor Escobal has already relayed orders for the errant Metro Manila cops to be brought to Malacañang to "start cleaning the Pasig River."

"I'm ordering the regional director of the NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) to have these 300-plus policemen report here to Crame so I can join them and bring them to Malacañang, ask them to fall into formation in front of the President so they can start cleaning the Pasig River," said the PNP chief.

Duterte over the weekend said he was overriding Dela Rosa's earlier decision to retrain the "erring cops and scalawags" of Metro Manila.

"'Yung sabi ni Bato na retraining? No. They will be suspended all over. Tapos mag-report sila sa Malacañang, diyan sa opisina ko. Mag-tindig sila lahat diyan until I decide what to do with them," Duterte said in a press briefing on Saturday night, February 4.

(The retraining that Bato said? No. They will be suspended all over. Then they will report to Malacañang, in my office. They will stand there until I decide what to do with them.)

Duterte said retraining would only turn the cops into "better scalawags."

Dela Rosa, however, clarified that the cops committed "minor offenses which are not grounds for separation from the service [like] absences in duty, late reporting for work, simple things like that." The PNP chief said those offenses were still "reformable."

Due process? 

Police can be sanctioned administratively through several offices within and outside the PNP. There's the PNP's Internal Affairs Service (IAS), the National Police Commission (Napolcom), and the People's Law Enforcement Board (PLEB). Cases – including criminal ones – may also be filed before the Ombudsman. 

Asked to reconcile Duterte's orders and the "due process" that cops are entitled to, Dela Rosa said his orders to retrain and the President's orders to clean up the Pasig River have nothing to do with due process.

"That's command guidance, command initiative. The PNP sees that they need training because they're out of order so no due process is needed in retraining. Maybe when it comes to dismissing cops," explained Dela Rosa.

Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde earlier announced the "disciplinary retraining" of 387 cops.

'Not just lip service'

Dela Rosa also rejected criticism that his promise to punish errant cops and "cleanse" the institution of scalawags was mere lip service.

"I-lips to lips ko eh, nandito na nga kami sa sitwasyon na ito, lip service pa (I'll lips to lips them. We're already in this situation and you'll accuse us of lip service)?" said the PNP chief.

Last week, Dela Rosa went to Angeles City, where he berated and "punished" several policemen who abducted and extorted from 3 Koreans in December 2016. An angry Dela Rosa made the cops do push-ups in front of media who covered his visit.

"Gusto ko nga, i-firing squad 'yung mga 'yun, eh 'di ko pwede gawin dahil illegal 'yan, gusto ko bugbugin. Ngayon, sabi nila push-up lang, sabi nila I'm treating erring cops with kid gloves, gusto nila bugbugin ko? Tapos 'pag binugbog ko, sabihin nila, 'Chief PNP, number one human rights violator.' So saan ako pupunta? Kung wala akong ginawa, sabihin nila wala akong ginawa. Kung may ginawa ako sabihin naman nila na kulang. 'Pag sumobra naman, sobrang ginawa. I cannot understand bakit ganyan sila," he said.

(If I had my way, I'd subject those errant cops to a firing squad but I can't do that because it's illegal. I want to beat them up. Now critics are complaining that it was just push-ups, they say I'm treating errant cops with kid gloves. So do they want me to beat them up? If I do that, then they'll say the PNP chief is the number one human rights violator. What do I do? If I do nothing, they criticize. If I do something, they'll say it's not enough. If I do too much, they'll criticize too. I cannot understand why they're like that.)

Groups and individuals – including lawmakers – have criticized Dela Rosa for supposedly only punishing the Angeles City police for show.

It was also in Angeles City where South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo was kidnapped from his home in October 2016, allegedly by personnel from the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG). On the same day of his abduction, Jee was murdered right inside Camp Crame, the headquarters of the PNP.

Duterte has since ordered the dismantling of all AIDG units across the Philippines and ordered a stop to the cops' anti-drug operations.

The PNP will instead focus on "internal cleansing" or chasing after errant personnel in its ranks. –