PNP: Cases against policemen in ‘antidrug’ missions double
CAMP VICENTE LIM — For Chief Insp. Eleuterio Logronio III, head of the Intelligence Investigation Prosecution Division of the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) of the Calabarzon police, handling cases against fellow police officers, some of them his former classmates and friends, is a daunting task.
“Many times, I, even our personnel, experienced bullying here,” he said.
When President Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office in 2016, the number of cases against policemen rose.
About 85 percent of the cases involved policemen who killed drug suspects in buy busts, tampering with or planting evidence, or policemen testing positive for drug use.
IAS is a Philippine National Police support unit that operates independently from the “mainstream” police force.
One of its tasks is to determine probable cause in an alleged wrongdoing, hear the case, and recommend administrative action against the policemen involved.
The recommendation is submitted to the legal office for its opinion, then it goes to the Discipline Law and Order Section, and finally to the regional police director for final approval or disapproval — the whole process taking an average of two months.
IAS records showed that from an average of 70 cases a year since 2012, the number increased to 85 by mid-2016 when Mr. Duterte assumed office. In 2017, the number rose to 141 and from January to June 2018, to 185.
These figures did not include “sensational” drug cases whose investigations were directly taken up by national police headquarters in Camp Crame.
“Police became more active in the campaign [against drugs and that’s] probably why they also became more prone to cases,” said Supt. Judy Lopez, a lawyer and chief of the Calabarzon police legal service.
As a policy, once a drug suspect is killed, a case of grave misconduct amounting to homicide is automatically filed against the policeman, Logronio said.
The penalty ranges from six months’ suspension, one rank demotion or dismissal.
The IAS, however, watches out for red flags. Planted evidence, for instance: Cops claim the suspect traded shots with them but on examination, the suspect’s gun proves to be defective.
Handcuff marks, for another, mean “he (suspect) [had already been] arrested when they (police) killed him,” Logronio said.
In Bacoor City, Cavite, last year, policemen pretending to be carrying out a drug operation but unaware of a security camera in the area, stole 12 pigs and 10 chickens from a resident.
The camera also caught them setting up a crime scene, planting a .38-caliber revolver and drug paraphernalia.
“The (police) operation was legitimate, but how (the suspect) died was not,” Logronio said.
Many rogue policemen, he added, were “free-loading on the government’s [narcotics] program” to carry out illegal activities.
To his dismay, Logronio said, most of the IAS’ recommendations were overturned at the legal services. In 2017, the IAS recommended 40 policemen—the highest ranking one was a chief inspector—dismissed but only three were booted out.
In May, the former Calabarzon police legal officer, Supt. Ramy Tagnong, was shot dead in Antipolo City, Rizal.
The suspected gunman, Bong Chavez, was killed in a drug bust on June 25, rendering Tagnong’s case closed without the police really finding out who ordered his killing.
Lopez, who replaced Tagnong, said that in just two months, her office approved the dismissal of close to 10 policemen with drug-related cases.
She said the service was still working on backlogs from Tagnong’s time.
Lopez stressed that her office’s mandate was to give its legal opinion only on the penalty recommended by the IAS and not dwell on the facts of the case.
“We uphold the rule of law. We want justice served not only to the policemen [charged] but to the families [of slain suspects],” she said.
“They (police) invoke self-defense, presumption of regularity. It is our duty during summary hearings to lay out the evidence. Someone dies, you cannot just walk free,” Logronio said.
He said most of the time, the family of the slain drug suspects opted not to testify or pursue the charges “probably because they think the case will go nowhere.”
Despite his frustrations, Logronio still believed the government was “serious” about its antidrug and internal cleansing program to rid the police force of rogue officers.
He insisted that orders to overturn the rulings did not come from his superiors. “If [they did], I’d file my resignation or retire right away,” he said.
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