Lacson to Dela Rosa: Focus on ‘cleansing operations’ of narco cops

Bea Cupin

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Lacson to Dela Rosa: Focus on ‘cleansing operations’ of narco cops
Senator Panfilo Lacson cites incidents involving cops with drug links who kill under the guise of legitimate operations or resort to vigilante killings to cover their tracks

MANILA, Philippines – Consider it an “admonition” from someone who’s been there and done that.

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday, November 23, had words of wisdom – or an “admonition” in his own words – for Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa at the  Senate probe into the death of an alleged drug lord coddler, the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.

Siguro ‘yung (Perhaps the) equally important thrust ng (of the) PNP [in the war on drugs] is addressing the cleansing operations of police officers,” said Lacson, former PNP chief, addressing Dela Rosa at the Senate hearing.

He cited “many incidents” involving police officers with drug links who kill “under the pretense of legitimate operations” and “sometimes resort to vigilante killings…to cover their tracks.”

Lacson said this happened when the Duterte administration came in, as these tainted police officers knew that their days are numbered.

“One way or another, [these cops] were involved. So what they will do, siyempre (of course), cleansing,” the senator said.

I think you should really give attention or equal importance, if not more importance doon sa pag-address sa mga kapulisan na gumagawa nito. Dahil tama ‘yun… nakakabawas tayo sa drug lords and pushers pero nandoon pa rin ‘yung tentacles,” Lacson added.

(I think you should really give attention or equal importance, if not, more importance in addressing the police responsible for this. Because it’s true…we have less drug lords and pushers but the tentacles are still there.)

He expressed concern that these “tentacles,” if not reformed, would enter the illegal drug trade themselves, having grown familiar with the operations.

‘Torn between two lovers’

During the hearing, the late Albuera mayor’s son, alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, alleged that several Leyte police – some at the hearing – were on his payroll.

One of the cops Espinosa accused of receiving protection money from him, Chief Inspector Marvin Marcos, led a Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 9 unit in implementing a search warrant against Mayor Espinosa inside a Leyte sub-provincial jail.

The older Espinosa was shot dead by police because he supposedly fought back but senators had labeled the incident as a case of a rubout or an extrajudicial killing.

All of the cops accused of receiving money from the Espinosas denied the allegations, which Dela Rosa said put him in a quandary. “I’m torn between two lovers,” said Dela Rosa reporters asked if he believed the explanations of his men.

Earlier in the hearing, Dela Rosa broke into tears after he was asked by Senator Miguel Zubiri what concrete steps he would take to address problems within the PNP that had eroded public trust. Lacson also gave him advice then, to act quickly on cases involving the police.

Dela Rosa, President Rodrigo Duterte’s pick to lead the PNP, has been its chief since July 1.

He leads the country’s popular but controversial war on drugs. The campaign has claimed the lives of more than 4,900 people – both drug suspects killed in operations and victims of apparent vigilante killings. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’)

Police have been accused of resorting to EJKs in the campaign, a claim Dela Rosa has vehemently denied.

The Senate committee on justice and human rights had earlier launched a probe into the rise of killings linked to illegal drugs, then headed by chief Duterte critic Senator Leila de Lima.  The neophyte senator was ousted from her post on allegations of partiality.

After De Lima’s ouster, Senator Richard Gordon headed the committee. The committee eventually concluded that neither Duterte nor the administation had sanctioned extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.