Philippine National Police

TIMELINE: The Philippine National Police and the P6.7-B shabu mess

Jodesz Gavilan

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TIMELINE: The Philippine National Police and the P6.7-B shabu mess

PNP. Camp Crame Headquarters in Quezon City on February 27, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) The P6.7-billion shabu mess further exposes the flawed anti-illegal drug campaign of former president Rodrigo Duterte

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.

STACKED. Plastics of shabu inside a drug den in Tondo, Manila in October 2022, where a policeman was suspected of being involved in running it. Screenshot from PNP PDEG
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.

ARRESTED. Former Police Master Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo on May 16, 2023 attends a Senate hearing on the October 2022 buy bust. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
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.

NO COVER-UP. Then-PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. holds a press conference on April 17, 2023 in Camp Crame. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler
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.”


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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.