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Drug war turning dirty?

President Rody Duterte’s war against illegal drugs started with a bang! ( Or shall we say with a Bang…. Bang …. Bang ) But of late, the campaign is mired in so much controversy that it probably needs a systems re-set.

No thanks to those whom Bato de la Rosa collectively refers to as “mga siga, bastos at undisciplined” – the rogue cops. Poor Bato can only publicly cry in shame as he admitted this during a senate inquiry.

But didn’t he know this from the very start?

From day one, President Rody had them in his so-called drug matrix. In fact, the President flaunted several matrices before the media. There was one list for cops, another for politicians and other persons of influence.

One list identified “narco cops” at all levels of the police hierarchy from the lowly SPO3s to the star-studded officers.

And what did Bato, as the President’s chief enforcer, do about it? Only Bato can answer that.

One can not dispute the President’s zeal when he declared his all-out war against drugs. He campaigned on a promise to rid the country of illegal drugs (in 3 months, mind you) and legions believed him.

His message was clear. There would be zero tolerance for drugs. And woe to anybody who would try to prevent him, or even just publicly criticize him, in his crusade. His livid reaction to public detractors was both intimidating and chilling.

As he shocked and awed the people during the initial months of his presidency, President Rody’s popularity stayed in the high 80’s. Rightly or wrongly, the President interpreted this as a sweeping mandate to pursue, in any way and in any manner, what he needed to do.

He hopped from camp to camp, reaching out to the police and army grass roots. He assured them of total support – and even immunity against undue criminal prosecution. There were talks of “pre-signed pardons” for those who would be wrongly charged because of their participation in the drug war.

“I will never allow anyone of you to go to jail for doing your job,’’ he assured his shock(ed) troops.

As if to bolster this promise, he reportedly gave instructions to Bato to take it easy on Police General Marvin Marcos and others who were implicated in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. while the latter was in police custody.

This despite the fact that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had filed multiple murder charges against Marcos and 27 other persons.

To the lowly policeman or soldier, the message could not have been any clearer. It was a carte blanche.

To the rogues in uniform, who had been in the drug trade, it was a perfect cover to silence the competition or others who might incriminate them.

At the same , it continued to provide a lucrative opportunity to extort from just about anybody. Senator Ping Lacson has the videos to prove it.

There is talk that the minimum asking price (to be let off the hook) is P100,000 for small fries. But for high profile extort victims, the price could go up to the millions. But even after they have paid, some victims still were permanently silenced.

Any wonder then that a rogue SPO3 would have a SALN of P17 million?

The rise in body count of alleged druggies has been alarming. At least for them, that is the end of their physical suffering. But this would not be case for their families who would have to continually suffer mental anguish.

And what about the several thousands who are now detained in overcrowded, smelly jail cells for the simple reason that they could not cough up the P100,000 demanded of them by police extortionists?

I heard that even PAO lawyers are AFRAID to handle cases of these detainees lest they be branded as obstructionists in the war against drugs.

At least a group of petitioners, led by a survivor in a police drug raid, mustered enough courage to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of Amparo. The writ seeks to stop the police from using Oplan Tokhang to “skirt due process, kill unarmed suspects and scare witnesses into silence.”

Of course, it is not too late for Bato. Or is it?

Senator Ping Lacson suggests that Bato create a body that will work full time on monitoring/disciplining the rogue cops. We need to get back the trust of the people, Lacson said. Another former police officer (whose name escapes me at the moment) explained it another way: “Bato concentrated too much on the operational side of the campaign. He simply neglected the administrative side.” In so many words, Senator Chiz Escudero chastised Bato: Just cut down on playing to the camera and do your job.

But Bato listens only to the President. And lucky for Bato. For the moment at least, the President’s confidence in Bato remains rock solid.

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(Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye)