More than bluster
Despite the killing of thousands of suspects in a bloody war on drugs, the problem clearly proved more intractable than candidate Duterte believed. As President, he sought an extension to his own self-declared deadline when it was apparent that fulfilling his campaign promise would take a little longer than expected. Nowadays, the President doesn’t even speak of deadlines. Rather, he uses bluster and threats of further violence. On Thursday, the President told police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who has gained notoriety for leading raids in which several narco-politicians were killed, that he is “free to kill everybody” in Bacolod, where he has been posted as deputy city director for operations. “Bacolod is badly hit now and I placed Espenido there, the police officer that they fear,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino. “I said, ‘Go there and you are free to kill everybody. Start killing there. Let’s just go to jail together.’” This bluster and bombast are in sharp contrast to the President’s low-key approach to his own former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who resigned after being accused in Senate hearings as a protector of so-called ninja cops, 13 policemen accused of reselling millions of pesos worth of illegal drugs seized a raid in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013. Albayalde, two former police officers testified, intervened in the dismissal order against the ninja cops, who worked under him when he was police director for Pampanga. He even admitted to one of the witnesses that he only got a small cut from their operations. These offenses—the reselling of seized narcotics and the cover-up that followed—strike at the heart of Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, yet all he has said on the matter is that Albayalde, as chief of the PNP, deserved to be heard and presumed innocent.