PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday brushed aside calls for Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa to resign over the murder of a Korean kidnap victim inside police headquarters at Camp Crame.
“He stays there. Bato has my complete trust and confidence,” Duterte said, referring to Dela Rosa by his nickname.
In an interview with GMA News, Duterte said he has ordered Dela Rosa to prosecute the rogue policemen who kidnapped then strangled Hanjin executive Jee Ick Joo inside Camp Crame in October 2016.
“He must identify those policemen who are into this kind of activity,” Duterte said. “And I can assure you, everybody [involved] will be prosecuted.”
Duterte’s expression of confidence came after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said some policemen involved in criminal cases and placed under PNP custody have gone missing.
One of these, Aguirre said, was PO1 Jonjie Manon-og of the Highway Patrol Group, who was accused of killing motorist John dela Riarte in July 2016.
“The HPG received a copy of the arrest warrant last Jan.18 but up to now he has not been found. We don’t know where he is,” Aguirre said in an interview.
Aguirre asked the PNP to comply with the court order, especially since Manon-og was supposed to be under restrictive custody due to separate murder and robbery charges against him.
“The PNP or whoever has custody of the accused is duty bound to produce him,” Aguirre said.
Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, who provided legal assistance to the victim’s family, said she would coordinate with the PNP for the HPG man’s arrest.
Acosta lamented that despite the arrest warrant issued Jan.12, Manon-og remained at large.
The two arrest orders issued by the Makati RTC branches 145 (for murder) and 138 (for robbery) against the accused were served to the Quezon City police district and PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
The DoJ earlier indicted Manon-og after finding in preliminary investigation that he and the other arresting HPG officer, PO3 Jeremiah De Villa, shot Dela Riarte inside their police mobile after arresting the motorist following a traffic altercation along EDSA in Makati City.
The handcuffed victim died of multiple gunshot wounds in the chest, abdomen and right thigh.
Manon-og was also indicted for robbery after it was found that the victim had P30,000 in cash with him during the incident.
In a hearing in August 2016, De Villa and Manon-og denied allegations and claimed that Dela Riarte twice attempted to snatch their firearms.
However, a day after formally denying the charges against him at the DoJ, De Villa died after jumping off the roof of a building in Camp Crame.
Under criminal procedures, deceased respondents are automatically absolved of criminal liabilities.
Senator Ralph Recto on Sunday said if Dela Rosa manages to stay on the job, he must pursue his “birthday wish” to rid the PNP of scalawags like the ones who strangled Jee inside Camp Crame after abducting him from his home in Pampanga.
De la Rosa turned 55 on Saturday, “leaving him with exactly one more year before he retires to do some serious house cleaning,” Recto said Sunday.
“That should be his battle plan for the next 365 days. To leave behind a PNP purged of the crooks who give the whole organization a bad name,” Recto said.
“Start with acknowledging that problems do exist,” the senator urged Dela Rosa. “Then follow it up with an action plan on how to solved them. Don’t answer with excuses... This is not the time to be a denial king.”
He said given the gravity of the problem, any plan had to be “a radical one.”
“Heads must roll. Consider a major reshuffle, too. Ignore the political patrons of officers,” he said.
Earlier, two more lawmakers joined calls for Dela Rosa to resign.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza and Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop backed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s call, saying Dela Rosa has no other option but to submit a courtesy resignation or to immediately leave his post.
“We support Speaker Alvarez’s call for him to resign because of that major failure of the national police leadership. This is a big scandal for the country, the Duterte administration and the ongoing war on drugs. Under the principle of command responsibility... he should take the bullet for the President. No [excuses] can possibly soften public anger on what had happened to the South Korean victim,” Atienza said.
Acop, House committee on public order and safety chairman, said Dela Rosa could ease the burden for the President through a courtesy resignation.
Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said the call for Dela Rosa to resign is still premature, but “it is a wake-up call for him to work double time.”
“I understand where Speaker Alvarez is coming from because Congress is the one appropriating budget for police operations. But his resignation is (still) premature. In fact, he worked hard to address this problem. That incident is really embarrassing so he must work very hard. He must also refrain from doing some unnecessary media or publicity stunt by observing proper decorum as head of the PNP,” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said Dela Rosa must be focused on the problems within the PNP instead of watching the boxing bout of Senator Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas or the concert of Bryan Adams at the Araneta Coliseum.
In the meantime, he said there should be no more concert, boxing bouts or talk shows so that De la Rosa can focus on the problems of the police organization.
Lacson, who used to be a PNP chief, said Dela Rosa missed the point completely when he said it would have made no difference if he skipped the concert because the Jee was already dead.
“That’s not the issue!” Lacson said. “The issue is there’s a problem in Crame. There’s a problem in the PNP, and that should be his priority.”
“There was a wrong sense of priority when it comes to those things. If your house is burning, will you watch a concert?” he said.
Lacson warned of an eventual breakdown in discipline within the PNP if the organization is not cleansed of scalawags.
Unlike other lawmakers, Lacson said, he was not calling for Dela Rosa’s resignation because he wanted to give the police chief another chance. With Rio N. Araja
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