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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) finds itself embroiled in a controversy surrounding its officers’ alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
The issue stems from the discovery of almost one ton of methamphetamine (shabu) worth P6.7 billion in October 2022. Now, lawmakers are trying to get to the bottom of the mess, particularly the involvement of high-ranking police officers.
Here is a timeline of developments related to the P6.7 billion shabu mess that further exposed the flawed anti-illegal drug campaign of former president Rodrigo Duterte. We will update this story as more information comes in.
OCTOBER 8, 2022
PNP seizes a total of 990 kilograms of shabu during an anti-illegal drug operation in Barangay 252 in Tondo, Manila. Aside from the illegal drug, the operation also yields items allegedly belonging to police officers, including ID and “incriminating documents.”
After a manhunt, police arrest their colleague Master Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo Jr. He is an intelligence officer of the Drug Enforcement Group, the unit that leads the Philippines’ anti-illegal drug campaign.
OCTOBER 9, 2022
Then-PNP chief General Rodolfo Azurin publicly announces their discovery of the P6.7-billion shabu haul and the arrest of the police officer. In a press conference, he says there has to be an intensive investigation because he believes “this is not just up to the level of [Mayo].”
JANUARY 4, 2023
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos asks full police colonels and generals to file their courtesy resignations. This move is part of the government’s efforts to cleanse the PNP ranks of police with alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
In a press conference, Abalos tags this as a “short cut” to address the recent discovery of PNP officers with links to the illegal drug trade, in contrast to the traditional and laborious processes.
JANUARY 9, 2023
Then-PNP chief Azurin announces that more than 500 full police colonels and generals have already tendered their courtesy resignations. This number is more than half of the 956 officers expected to comply with Abalos’ instruction.
APRIL 10, 2023
Abalos announces that “there is indeed a massive attempt to cover up” the arrest of Mayo tagged in the P6.7 billion shabu mess, based on the testimonies and other evidence gathered by the fact-finding board.
At least two police generals and eight officers have been suspended in relation to their involvement in the cover up.
APRIL 13, 2023
Brigadier General Narciso Domingo, chief of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group, is sacked from his position and transferred to the office of the PNP chief. He led the anti-drug unit when Mayo was arrested during the operation that led to a P6.7-billion shabu haul.
Domingo, however, denies there was a cover-up in the arrest.
The PNP recalls the service firearms of at least 47 cops after they are accused of taking part in the cover-up. The memorandum ordering this move is signed by Police Major General Eliseo DC Cruz, director for Investigation and Detective Management.
APRIL 17, 2023
Then-PNP chief Azurin denies there was an attempt to cover up the arrests in the P6.7-billion shabu haul in October 2022 and calls for due process for those implicated.
In a press conference, he says the accusations against cops are “very unfair” and that the public should “try to respect and give [the accused cops] dignity because they earned that.”
Azurin also urges Abalos “to take a second look at the people who may be feeding him wrong information to cause doubt” on the PNP.
APRIL 26, 2023
Surigao Representative Ace Barbers calls out the PNP officers implicated in the shabu mess over the discrepancies in their testimonies given during a congressional hearing. Their statements’ inconsistencies include details on the date, time, and places of arrest of Mayo.
MAY 16, 2023
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa announces during a Senate hearing that Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 177 has issued a gag order on the criminal case faced by Mayo. The hearing again centers on the cops’ inconsistent testimonies, particularly on the identity of the informant who made the operation possible.
The PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management also announces that several cases will be filed against cops involved in the shabu mess.
MAY 23, 2023
The task group investigating the shabu mess also presents closed circuit television footage that shows discrepancy in the testimonies of policemen regarding the arrest of former police Mayo in October 2022.
Senators cite Mayo in contempt, as well as his former supervisor Police Lieutenant Colonel Arnulfo Ibañez and five other cops.
JUNE 9, 2023
Napolcom and PNP file criminal complaints against 50 cops over the P6.7-billion shabu mess. Abalos says the complaints were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman’s Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.
The respondents include 12 high-ranking police officers, including former PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Police Lieutenant General Benjamin Santos Jr.
JUNE 15, 2023
DILG’s Abalos says that a “powerful syndicate” was behind the P6.7-billion shabu mess that hounds the PNP. He based this information on a conversation with a certain police officer, who tagged those involved as “very evil persons… who will hurt you where it will hurt you the most.”