“I PROMISE, ‘pag nahuli ko kayo babaliin ko leeg ninyo.” Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa aired this warning to rogue cops, particularly those taking advantage of the war against drugs to extort money from people.
“I am appealing to the public, please help us police our ranks as there are still many scalawags using the war on drugs to make money,” the PNP chief told a press conference at Camp Crame after their regular flag-raising ceremonies.
He also invited people including ‘drug lords and pushers’ who are being subjected to extortion by rogue policemen to report any shakedown demands to him.
The PNP chief confirmed that there have been cases of policemen approaching businessmen and telling them their names are on the list of drug suspects and threatening them.
Usually, he said, the victims eventually offer the extortionists huge sums of money to have their names removed from the purported list.
To stop this illegal practice, Gen. de la Rosa invited victims of the modus operandi to report any extortion attempt to him and he would consider the errant policemen’s offense “times two,” or twice as serious as those of drug personalities, and “I will neutralize them.”
The PNP chief emphasized that rogues in police uniform will be caught sooner or later and he will see to it that they will be fired from the service and sent behind bars.
He particularly addressed the few scalawags in the 170,000-strong police force who are riding on the ongoing PNP Project: Double Barrel specifically the so-called Oplan: Tokhang to extort money from their targets, drug personalities or not.
The PNP chief also called on ‘big-time drug lords, as well as street peddlers and users’ to report policemen who are using President Duterte’s war against drugs as an avenue for extortion.
“Kahit kayo ay drug lord, kahit kayo ay drug pusher, ‘pag kayo ay kinokotongan ng mga pulis, mag-report kayo sa akin at may tama sa akin ’yang mga pulis na ’yan. Pero pag ’yung report naman ninyo ay hindi totoo dahil lang gusto niyong resbakan ’yung mga pulis, kayong mga drug lord at pusher na nag-report, may tama din kayo sa akin,” he stressed.
Two weeks ago, Gen. de la Rosa ordered the transfer to Jolo, Sulu of a Makati City Police Station official and four of his men for involvement in extortion. The Makati City police official has been identified by National Capital Region Police Office director, Chief Superintendent Oscar D. Albayalde as Chief Inspector Sherwin Cuntapay, the head of the city police’s intelligence division.
Albayalde said they were looking into the complaint of a Singaporean national against Cuntapay following the presidential instruction. “I already directed Southern Police District Director Tomas Apolinario Jr. to relieve Cuntapay, pending investigation, for a fair trial,” Albayalde said.
President Duterte said he was very displeased with reports that a police inspector of Makati police has been extorting money from tourists. “I am ordering the police right now to relieve him, place him under suspension, and initiate summary dismissal,” Mr. Duterte said. “Or if you want, at your convenience, whoever this inspector is, you better resign.”
Gen. de la Rosa said that ironically, the information used by the accused to talk with the Singaporean identified as Wee Siong Lai directly came from him.
Albayalde said Cuntapay allegedly asked Wee, the owner of companies involved in business process outsourcing and online gaming, to pay P750,000 and he would drop the investigation.
The NCRPO director said that during a confrontation between Cuntapay and lawyers of the Singaporean, an information cropped up that the money was received by certain Colonel Kabigting, a former police officer and chief security of the complainant.
“We are also not looking at police officers, there may also be civilians conniving with the police, using the government’s war on drugs to perpetuate extortion activities,” he said.
Albayalde said they were also monitoring around 200 policemen included in their counterintelligence watch list. The NCRPO director has already sacked 250 policemen involved in illegal drugs and other illegal activities in September. Of these, 19 police officer of the Manila Police District were transferred to police offices in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Western Mindanao and Caraga region pending investigation of their cases.
Gen. de la Rosa last July ordered Albayalde to focus on rogue officers and men assigned in police districts and stations known for their direct or indirect involvement in illegal drug activities.
The PNP chief earlier said he will pursue the investigation of all policemen identified for their involvement directly or indirectly with illegal drugs specifically those known for their so-called ‘Agaw-Bato’ activities, ‘planting’ of drugs on individuals in order to extort money from them and those directly involved in reselling of seized drug evidence.
Under the so-called ‘Agaw-Bato’ activities, rogue policemen arrest drug dealers, seize huge volume of shabu from them and later set them free after payment of millions of pesos worth of ‘ransom.’ These rogues in uniform will then be the one to resell the confiscated drug evidence.
Some rogue cops have also gained notoriety for abducting targets and threatening to file trumped-up drug charges against them if they fail to come across their monetary demands. In many cases, Camp Crame had monitored incidents in which rogues in uniform have forced victims to empty their bank or ATM deposits, sign open ‘deed of sale’ for their motor vehicles and strip them of their jewelry and other precious materials.