No going soft vs drugs

Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa has urged the Marcos government not to go soft on the illegal drugs trade as he warned that the so-called “ninja cops” may be making a comeback.

De la Rosa’s pronouncement should not be taken lightly by the present dispensation as he had served as the first Philippine National Police (PNP) chief of the Duterte administration and the primary implementer of its anti-drugs war.

Ironically, De la Rosa’s nickname “Bato,” probably coined to describe his being as tough as a rock dating back to when he was fighting communist rebels in Davao as a junior officer, may also mean crystal meth or shabu in the vernacular.

On Sunday, newly designated PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. laid down his plans against the seeming resurgence of the drug trade in line with an earlier pronouncement of Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos.

Abalos assured the public that Marcos’ anti-drugs campaign will be as determined as that of his predecessor.

Azurin, however, emphasized that the PNP under his watch will put a premium on minimizing deaths associated with the government’s anti-drugs operation, emphasizing that “killing is not the solution.” He added that clamping down on the problem entails addressing the roots of the crisis.

“What is the drug situation in every community? We will ask the barangay and the leaders there, so we will know the drug situation. We will find out what intervention we have to do,” said the top cop, who added the PNP will also seek help from the church at the grassroots level, not just on drugs but on crimes in general.

Back to De la Rosa’s warning that ninja cops and narco-politicians may be back with impunity. That concern of the senator may have been fueled by the recent arrest of a Metro Manila policeman and his companion for selling P3.4 million worth of shabu to elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The cop was with many other firearms-bearing personalities when PDEA agents swooped in, raising the question if other cops were involved in the botched drug sale.

One has to read between the lines and try to draw a conclusion from the reactive issuance that followed — the disarming, preventive suspension, and back-to-camp order issued against the cop’s colleagues in the PNP.

Ninja cops are seen as the worst players in the drug trade because they use their police powers to arrest drug syndicate members and then confiscate the narcotics for “recycling” or reselling to end users.

Such rogue cops cut the volume of drugs turned over to the courts as evidence against the arrested suspects so their cohorts can sell portions back to the drug market. Past modus operandi included swapping shabu with tawas or powdered alum.

The statements of Azurin and Abalos were echoed on Monday by President Marcos Jr. when he graced with his presence the 121st Police Service Anniversary celebration in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Marcos told cops to work with integrity and to never allow dishonesty to creep in during the performance of their duties.

“I enjoin all of you to give it your best as you always have, without sacrificing your integrity as servants of the people. Let us be united in supporting the PNP leadership and its crusade against those who intend to inflict harm and disorder,” he said.

“Let us continue to conduct our business with utmost integrity and accountability and let us not allow even a hint of dishonesty and abuse to enter that narrative.”

Marcos and Duterte are poles apart in their styles of leadership, more so with the way they talk, but the demands of the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines have not changed insofar as illegal drugs are concerned.

Whether via tough talk as Duterte had been known for, or reliance on the power of suasion as Marcos has been doing since Day One of his presidency, tough actions are required when dealing with drug fiends who destroy lives and the very fabric of society.

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