President Rodrigo Duterte should end his campaign against illegal drugs since it has been tainted with controversies that even led to the resignation of the Philippine National Police chief OscarAlbayalde
, Amnesty International said.
READ: PNP chief gives up post
In a statement issued Monday, AI Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia Nicholas Bequelin said Albayalde’s resignation is the “last blow to the credibility of the so-called war on drugs.”
“The Philippines authorities must ensure that justice is done and that this lawless and murderous campaign ends now,” he said.
Albayalde stepped down as chief of the 190,000-strong police force on Monday, earlier than announced, as he fought allegations that he had protected his men accused of selling seized narcotics.
He decided to relinquish his post to go into non-duty status, which means he will not perform any task as a police official, until he officially retires from the police service on Nov. 8.
Albayalde has been accused of protecting his men accused of keeping part of illegal drugs confiscated in a drug raid in 2013 when he was still Pampanga police chief.
Duterte has asked him—through Interior Secretary Eduardo Año—to go on terminal leave in the wake of the allegations
, said Senator Christopher Go, a close aide of the President.
The scandal, the AI said, shows that “impunity” is entrenched in the institutions supposed to uphold human rights and the rule of law.
Thousands of people have been killed in a wave of state-sanctioned violence since the start of Duterte’s presidency in 2016, which the AI said reached the threshold of crimes against humanity.
The government, however, said that the alleged ninja cops—a term used for policemen selling seized narcotics
—does not undermine the credibility of the drug war.
READ: Narco-cops in two groups bared: ‘ninja liit, volt in’
In Malacañang, Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo has maintained that the President will respond to the results of the investigation in accordance with the law.
“The President is the number one enforcer of the law, so if there is evidence against any wrongdoing, then it behooves the government to file and prosecute,” he said.
Senators said that Albayalde is not yet off the hook despite his resignation.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee headed by Senator Richard Gordon may endorse the filing of criminal charges against the former police chief, including for violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
READ: 'Senate can prove PNP chief's guilt'
Gordon said the committee is now finalizing its report that he hoped would be given due attention by the President as well as by the Department of Justice.
Albayalde’s interim replacement, P/Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa
, said the PNP was winning the war on drugs, despite the ninja cops scandal.
He acknowledged, however, that morale was low because of the scandal.
Gamboa told the ANC news channel the investigation into the ninja cops would be “100-percent graft-free” and “bias-free.” He said regaining the credibility of the PNP was a major challenge.
Meanwhile, three lawmakers said police generals and colonels should undergo confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
READ: 3 cop officers in top-post list
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun, one of the lawmakers, said the CA already has constitutional power over presidential appointments to the top ranks of the PNP.
Gamboa on Tuesday presided over a command conference in Camp Crame Tuesday with members of the PNP Command Group, Directorial Staff, Regional Directors and Directors of National Support Units.
In the coming days, Gamboa said, the PNP will come up with a briefing on the PNP Internal Cleansing Program since 2016 to inform the public how deadly serious the PNP is in running after rogues in uniform.
“Much has been done already in our internal cleansing program,” he said even as vowed to continue the reforms initiated by Albayalde to rid the PNP of misfits.
In a related development, Central Visayas police chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas was named the police director in Metro Manila, replacing Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar who was appointed as PNP chief of the Directorial Staff.
Sinas has been with the Central Visayas Regional Police Office since June 2018 and also served as head of the PNP’s Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame.
Eleazar, who is among the possible successors of Albayalde, said he is confident Sinas will continue the NCRPO’s program, including the cleansing of its ranks and the campaign against drug dealing.
“General Sinas is a disciplinarian. He is a bit strict so I believe that internal cleansing will be active under his watch and we need to show the people that we deserve their trust and confidence,” Eleazar said. With Joel E. Zurbano
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