‘Tokhang’ implodes

February 2, 2017 at 10:30

‘Tokhang’ implodes


The skeptics turned out right: it was a campaign promise that was doomed to fail. Not even Superman can end the drug menace and criminality in this country in just six months.

But let’s look on the bright side – at least President Duterte moved relatively quickly to get the anti-drug campaign out of the hands of the Philippine National Police. Yesterday, he also ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to arrest rogue PNP members.

In line with the President’s directive, his favorite cop Ronald dela Rosa dismantled the police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group. The AIDG was the unit that was principally tasked to implement Du30’s war on drugs.

Dela Rosa has reportedly offered to retire as PNP chief. While Dela Rosa can’t possibly keep track of the activities of all the 100,000-plus PNP personnel, Oplan Tokhang was Du30’s pet project. In most other countries, police heads are sure to roll if there are thousands of unresolved killings and the nation becomes the region’s homicide capital. The retirement of the PNP chief can send the strongest signal that Du30 wants “real change” and the “cleansing” of the PNP will not be mere rhetoric.

General Bato has a natural flair for the dramatic; he can reinvent himself as a comedian, and earn more than he can ever hope to make legitimately even as a four-star cop. Then he won’t have to rely on billionaire senators to bankroll his family junkets in Las Vegas. A career shift to show biz can even serve as Bato’s springboard for a Senate seat – said to be his goal as his retirement age in the PNP approaches.

The reinvention assumes that Dela Rosa won’t earn an indictment for the 7,000 people killed so far in the war on drugs. Oh yes, there are groups now building cases in connection with the mass killings under Oplan Tokhang. The PNP chief won’t be able to escape responsibility.

* * *

Because Oplan Tokhang was built on the termite-ridden foundation that is the PNP, its implosion was a foregone conclusion. I’m impressed by Du30’s blind faith in the national police. Perhaps he didn’t know PNP officers well enough. Perhaps he thought the fearsome reputation of Dirty Rody would prevent his anti-drug warriors from abusing their mandate.

It turned out the fearsome warriors feared nothing and no one, and set out to make their power of life and death work for their personal benefit.

Now the anti-drug campaign has been taken over by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. Let’s hope the PDEA has rid itself of scalawags. One of its former top officials was himself a notorious shakedown artist. The kidnapping and murder of Korean business executive Jee Ick-joo should evoke in this former official fond memories of his heyday as a psycho lawman.

Of course one has to be a psychopath to barge into homes and fire away, killing even children, or to strangle an innocent man with a plastic bag and packing tape. Perhaps Dirty Rody carried out Tokhang with the idea that while such psychos might be murderous SOBs, as long as they were his SOBs, they were exactly what he needed.

* * *

The collapse of Tokhang should impart a lesson about rogue cops: if they see their superiors condoning short cuts to law enforcement, they will want a cut in the proceeds.

It’s not as if there were no red flags for abuse. The alarm bells began ringing almost as soon as cops started knocking on doors and telling private citizens that they must register as drug personalities, or else…

Several of those who “voluntarily” entered their names on a narco list ended up dead anyway. Cops explained that such persons mistakenly thought that presenting themselves to the police spared them from arrest, so the suspects went back to abusing or peddling drugs. Of course all the fatalities were shot because they resisted arrest – the now notorious “nanlaban” explanation of the police.

Jee Ick-joo did not resist arrest on trumped-up charges, but he was strangled to death anyway, after his wife had paid P5 million as ransom. The grisly murder was perpetrated allegedly by a cop outside the AIDG main office near the official residence of Dela Rosa, right inside PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.

Could the story get more disgusting than that? Yes it could, and it did. President Duterte narrated yesterday, a day after he met with Jee’s widow and South Korean Ambassador Kim Jae-shin at Malacañang, that the most horrid aspect for the Koreans was the cremation of Jee’s corpse and the flushing of the ashes down the toilet.

* * *

Probers are now looking into the possible involvement of National Bureau of Investigation agents, after an NBI “volunteer worker” was caught on CCTV withdrawing the ransom money using Jee’s credit card.

The other day an NBI official hotly denied that Jerry Omlang, who has surrendered and admitted his role in withdrawing the money and conducting surveillance on Jee, was an agent of the bureau.

Omlang, the official said, was merely an errand boy who was not on the regular NBI payroll. But Omlang has been a gofer at the NBI since 2005. That’s a long 10 years as an errand boy. His employment situation allows for deniability in case he is implicated in criminal activity. It’s intriguing that the NBI and PNP share such “volunteer workers.”

Omlang said he was tapped by Special Police Officer 3 Ricky Sta. Isabel of the AIDG to be part of the operation on Jee. It would be interesting to find out what other errands Omlang might have undertaken for lawmen.

As a non-employee of the NBI, Omlang and his handlers apparently believed he did not have to account for his actions. That lack of accountability, the freedom to do whatever they pleased, characterized the behavior of those who carried out Oplan Tokhang and its expanded version, Double Barrel. Such an operation was inevitably bound to collapse inward.

The implosion of Tokhang is the story of our weak democracy. Launch a program for the national good (as President Duterte has described his anti-drug campaign) and those implementing it soon make it work for their personal gain.


Source: https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/02/01/1667884/tokhang-implodes

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