429 PNP generals, colonels asked to resign in internal ‘narco’ purge
MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos asked hundreds of generals and colonels in the Philippine National Police on Wednesday to tender their “courtesy resignation” from their posts, in a surprising move meant to weed out officers allegedly involved in criminal drug syndicates.
Abalos, whose department exercises administrative control over the PNP, said the mass resignation was in line with the government’s campaign to rid the police force of its “deeply entrenched” narcotic problem.
Even PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. will have to comply with Abalos’ request by filing his courtesy resignation to set an example for his subordinates, according to the PNP’s public information chief, Col. Redrico Maranan.
“I know you are all shocked, but this is the only way to make a fresh start,” Abalos said, addressing the PNP top brass during his first press conference of the year at Camp Crame, the PNP general headquarters in Quezon City.
Many of the senior officials, whose portraits were mounted on a wall of the PNP Multipurpose Center, were visibly surprised by Abalos’ remarks.
“This war on drugs will be a difficult battle especially when your own allies are the ones shooting you from behind,” said Abalos, who exercises supervision over the PNP as the chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
In a statement, the PNP said Azurin “will be the first to submit himself to the said assessment and evaluation process.”
“Most importantly, the PNP has full faith in the wisdom of Secretary Abalos and our leaders which is always geared toward the good of the PNP organization and of the country,” it said.
Some 429 officers hold the rank of colonel to general in the 227,000-strong police force.
As per the latest count, the PNP organization has 293 colonels, 108 brigadier generals, 19 major generals, eight lieutenant generals, and one general, currently Azurin.
All of them were appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the PNP chief and with the endorsement from the chair of the Civil Service Commission, under Section 31 of Republic Act No. 6975, which established the PNP under the DILG.
List of cops involved
“This will be very difficult, a very radical approach to this problem, but I do believe we must cleanse our ranks,” Abalos said.
A five-member committee will evaluate whether to accept or refuse the resignation of the police officers, effectively giving its members the power to shape the organization from the top down.
But Abalos did not disclose the names of the members for their security, only saying they were “really trustworthy.”
Neither he nor Azurin will be part of the committee, “which shall be the ones to go through the records to vet whether the police officials are involved in illegal drugs or not,” he said.
Abalos said the DILG already had a list of names of police officials believed to be involved in illegal drugs “after months of investigation and studying,” but he did not divulge the number.
He clarified that those who would comply with the call for resignation would remain in the police service “until [their resignations] are accepted by the President.”
Asked if his call was approved by President Marcos, Abalos did not give a direct answer, only saying “these are being discussed.”
‘No problem if they’re innocent’
He played down the impact of the mass resignation on the PNP hierarchy, saying there were only “only a few” officials on the list of PNP drug personalities.
“They should not be afraid. If they’re innocent and not involved in drugs, then there should be no problem. If they will not file their resignation, then that’s sort of questionable,” he said.
Asked why the DILG didn’t just prosecute police officials suspected of protecting drug syndicates, Abalos admitted that his call for their resignation was a “shortcut” to the lengthy judicial process of filing cases in court and securing convictions.
This was not the first time there was such a call for mass resignations in the PNP hierarchy.
On Feb. 23, 1993, then President Fidel Ramos issued Memorandum Order No. 93, creating a screening committee headed by then Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III “to evaluate and process all the voluntary applications for retirement by senior PNP officers in order to afford the President an opportunity to freely reorganize and institute reforms in the leadership of the PNP.”
The senior PNP officials were given seven days to submit their retirement applications, and the committee gave its recommendation to the President after 45 days.
Some 68 generals and colonels retired voluntarily, paving the way for the assumption of office by younger officers.
Mr. Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, faced international condemnation for launching a bloody antinarcotics crackdown, with more than 6,200 people killed in police operations during his term between 2016 and 2022.
Since Mr. Marcos took office in June, authorities have conducted more than 24,000 sting operations, arrested around 30,000 people, and killed around a dozen drug suspects, according to police data.
In November, the police said killings in antidrug operations would be minimized, with the new administration focusing on rehabilitation and education.
—WITH REPORTS FROM REUTERS AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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