Philippine National Police

[The Slingshot] How the drug trade shifted to the police

Antonio J. Montalvan II
[The Slingshot] How the drug trade shifted to the police
'We have now a severely damaged institution'

It was out of serendipity that a chatty, tell-all friendship began at a golf course somewhere in Metro Manila. The golf club was the favorite hangout of police colonels and generals. A friend played golf in the same club. Eventually paths would cross. Between putts and links, stories would be shared. There is something in golf clubs that invite business and sports camaraderie.

But this was the height of the Duterte regime. These police colonels and generals were by that time no longer running an organization that maintained law and order by protecting the public and their property, preventing crime, reducing the fear of crime, and improving the quality of life for all citizens. They were tokhang accomplices. They had become extrajudicial killers.

In between shots on the fairways, police secrets would be revealed. The officers were amazingly honest about their emerging job descriptions in the Duterte drug war. They revealed how much their wallets were fattened by drug kill reward money. They would even intimate who the bagman was. Undeterred by professional conventions, they spoke of the crime they were into with an acquired pompousness. They were casually spilling the beans as though there was honor among thieves.

What was the menu of money rewards? If their subordinates shot dead a drug suspect, the pay was bigger. If the drug suspect was apprehended instead of shot, the reward was smaller. That alone explains the frenzy of killings by the police. To escape blame and make it appear the police had clean hands, hired assassins were easily contracted because there was money for it. Otherwise, police themselves were assassins by riding in tandem and covering their identities with balaclavas.

The scale of payments consisted of P50,000 for EJKs, P40,000 if the suspect remained alive. Money was trickled down to the subordinates. The supply of guns was unlimited. Used were recycled guns, confiscated guns, and a supply of paltik non-firing guns for planting of evidence. Police had become farmers too.

Senior Inspector Magdalino G. Pimentel Jr. and Inspector Markson S. Almeranez were both young police commissioned officers. Both were graduates of the Philippine National Police Academy. Almeranez ranked 5th in the PNPA Class of 2013 and at a young age was already serving as police chief of Socorro, Oriental Mindoro. Pimentel belonged to PNPA Class of 2009 and was assigned to the Oriental Mindoro Police Public Safety Company.

What public safety were they into? They were police officers who had become public murderers. After killing citizens crime watch advocate Zenaida Luz at close range just outside her house in 2016, the civilian-clad police criminals fled in their motorcycle. Pimentel was wearing a bonnet and a hoodie. Almeranez wore a balaclava and a wig. A police mobile team, alerted to the killing by the barangay chairman, gave chase and cornered them but not before they fired back at the pursuing police.

But here’s the catch – Almeranez was recently awarded that time by no less than the chief of the Philippine National Police Ronald dela Rosa when he visited Calapan City. The then-PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos immediately went defensive: “The incident does not speak for the entire organization.”

See the pattern. Police proclaim them before the public as outstanding awardees. Yet in truth they are criminals. On May 31 last year, the PNP awarded Master Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo Jr. for “meritorious heroic acts” as intelligence officer in the PNP Drug Enforcement Group in the National Capital Region. Again, no less than the PNP acting chief handed him the award, Lt. General Vicente Danao Jr., the notorious wife-beater who Rodrigo Duterte had defended when Danao was Davao city police chief (Note: Mrs. Susie Danao filed in 2014 a case of physical and mental abuse, and marital infidelity against her husband Vicente).

In October 2022, Mayo was arrested with a ton of meth worth P6.7 billion, one of the largest hauls in the history of Philippine drug enforcement.

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What has happened to the Philippine National Police? The equation is simple. Until the twilight of the Duterte regime, money was flowing freely to the police. But more importantly, so too was drugs. The PNP became the most in possession of confiscated drugs.

When the spigot of confidential funds from Duterte ran dry, there was no more money. But there was bottomless drugs. The business simply diversified by shifting the trade: the PNP became the source and supplier of drugs.

The Marcos administration now calls for courtesy resignations of all police generals and colonels. It is a titanic upheaval. Involved will be 1 full general, 8 lieutenant generals, 21 major generals, 114 brigadier generals, and 812 colonels. It is a move in the right direction. It is a direct confrontation of Dutertismo when Duterte told the police: if you do wrong, I will defend you; if you get sentenced, I will pardon you.

Duterte effectively laid the groundwork for the transformation of the Philippine National Police into a corrupt-laden squadron of killers and thieves. But the bold Marcos move is not enough. It must turn around Dutertismo by pursuing the case of mass murder against Duterte, Dela Rosa, et al in the International Criminal Court. The ICC complaint is not political: families of victims of EJKs were behind the filing. Duterte’s former lead assassins provided testimonies. Why would they be in hiding now if their testimonies were falsely sworn to, to merely frame up Duterte et al?

We have now a severely damaged institution. No amount of mass resignation of its officers can cleanse the filth it has become. It must be abolished and a new law enacted to create in its place a new national guard with a refined mission to fight crime and protect ordinary Fiipinos, with draconian measures against tokhang, police abuse, and corruption.

For even ordinary cops have become killing monsters. When Staff Sergeant Fernando Mata of Naga City, Cebu, using his own service firearm, shot and killed his wife Heronia inside his own police station last Christmas Day as she was filing a case of physical battery against him, what does that tell us? If it tells us that our own taxpayers’ money is used to make criminals out of our own public safety officers, it is time to let go. –

Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.

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