war on drugs

Dela Rosa thinks Duterte will be good choice for anti-drug czar

Bonz Magsambol

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Dela Rosa thinks Duterte will be good choice for anti-drug czar

ALLIES. File photo of former president Rodrigo Duterte and then PNP chief Bato dela Rosa taken in 2017.

Presidential Photo

(1st UPDATE) Will President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. be pressured to offer the position to Rodrigo Duterte, and will the former president accept the offer?

As the architect of then-president Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa thinks that the former president would be a good choice to lead the Marcos administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“Kung ako, personally, mas maganda, pero depende ‘yan sa Malacañang (For me personally, it will be a good choice, but it depends on Malacañang) if they are willing to offer the former president the position,” Dela Rosa told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday, May 24, when asked if he was in favor of Duterte becoming anti-drug czar.

The former police chief said that ninja cops or cops who sell drugs they seize in operations would be afraid to engage in such illegal activity.

“Kung ako, maganda sana, kasi babalik ‘yung takot ng mga drug syndicates, particularly ‘yung mga pulis na involved, ‘yung mga ninja cops, matatakot,” Dela Rosa added. (For me, it will be a good choice because drug syndicates, particularly the ninja cops, will be afraid to engage in illegal drug activities.)

It was Senator Bong Go, who served as special assistant to then-president Duterte, who floated the idea of Duterte being the anti-drug czar at a Senate inquiry into the multi-billion shabu controversy on Tuesday, May 23.

“Prerogative naman iyan ng Presidente – ang appointing authority. Pero kung saka-sakali lang, makakatulong ba kung itatalagang drug czar si dating pangulong Duterte?” Go asked Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Benjamin Acorda Jr. during the hearing.

(This is a prerogative of the President as the appointing authority, but if ever, will it help that former president Duterte is named as drug czar?)

Acorda did not give a definite answer, but said that “anything on the campaign against illegal drugs, I will be supportive.”

From July 2016 to October 2018 – a period that mostly covered Dela Rosa’s stint as PNP chief – the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said at least 4,999 were killed in police anti-drug operations.

Before he led the PNP, Dela Rosa served as Davao City police chief when Duterte was mayor. The Davao Death Squad (DDS) flourished under Duterte and was known to carry out kill orders from higher-ups that allegedly included the former Davao City mayor, according to whistleblower and former member Arturo Lascañas. He had implicated Dela Rosa as among the alleged “enablers” of Duterte.

In a decision dated March 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected the bid of the Philippine government to suspend its probe into Duterte’s drug war campaign. Duterte said he would “face the music” and “rot in prison.”

Wala akong pakialam basta ginawa ko ‘yung dapat kong gawin (I don’t care, as long as I did what I had to do),” he said in March. Meanwhile, Dela Rosa said he was ready to face the ICC anytime.

Illegal drug trade getting stronger under Marcos?

After his allies in the Senate floated the idea of his appointment as the anti-drug czar, Duterte was quoted by Sunstar Davao as saying that the illegal drug trade has been gaining strength after he left Malacañang. He also observed that there has been a spike in heinous crimes.

“Lumalakas na naman daw ang droga. (The illegal drug trade is reportedly gaining ground again). There are a lot of heinous crimes committed [against] helpless citizens. The streets are really not that safe anymore,” he said in a speech in Davao City on Thursday, May 25, and specifically referred to the case of rape-slay victim architect Vlanche Marie Bragas.

Duterte had built, and won, his presidential campaign on his narrative of how he curbed the illegal drug trade, and consequently heinous crimes, in his city – and how he would do the same in the country. He had promised to end the menace within three to six months of his presidency but he not only failed to fulfill this campaign promise but he himself had admitted that his drug campaign was a failure.

‘Weak leader’

In 2021, in the lead up to the 2022 elections, Duterte called Marcos a “weak leader.” He said this when asked why he didn’t want an alliance with Lakas-CMD.

“Totoo ‘yan, hindi ako naninira ng tao, kasi spoiled child, only son, of course he can talk, he delivers English articulate, nag-aral kasi kung saan-saan, pero kung sabihin mo may crisis, ganun, he’s a weak leader at may bagahe siya,” Duterte said. (That’s true, I’m not just criticizing, but it’s because he’s spoiled, the only son…he was able to study in different places, but if there was a crisis, he’s a weak leader and he carries baggage.)

Duterte himself accused Marcos of being a cocaine user. Duterte was attacking Marcos at that time even as his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, was Marcos’ running mate.

But in a recent television interview, Duterte was defending Marcos over his remarks on the drug war campaign of the previous administration.

“Tama siya na (He is correct that) along the way, in the enforcement of the law, [there is] a rigid attitude towards the enforcement of the law, abuses will be committed,” Duterte said, when asked by his former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque about his thoughts about Marcos’ comments on his drug war campaign.

During Marcos’ US trip earlier this month, he said that “in my view, what had happened in the previous administration is that we focused very much on enforcement.”

“And because of that, it could be said that there were abuses by certain elements in the government and that has caused some concern with many quarters about the human rights situation in the Philippines,” he added.

Earlier in September 2022, Marcos declared: “I think we have found – [and] it is certainly my view – that enforcement, which has been the part of the drug war that has been most vigorously pursued by President [Rodrigo] Duterte only gets you so far.” He said the focus of his administration would be more on prevention and rehabilitation rather than law enforcement.

Both Dela Rosa and Go were staunch allies of Duterte during his administration. But the question now is, will Marcos be pressured to offer the position to Duterte, and will the former president accept the offer? – With a report from Ferdinand Zuasola/Rappler.com

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  1. AH

    This is brilliant: Few things illustrate impunity so well – and demonstrates the futility of seeking justice for Duterte’s “tokhang” victims – than his lackey Bota pushing to get his former boss reinstated in government. I want to see Remulla talk his way out of this, his talk of a “functioning justice system” sounds like exceptionalist whining to me.

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.