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Fight to the death: 1-star officer is new PNP chief

‘THE ROCK’ Chief Supt. Ronald dela Rosa is  called “Bato” (the Rock) for his solid build. JAYMEE T. GAMIL

‘THE ROCK’ Chief Supt. Ronald dela Rosa is called “Bato” (the Rock) for his solid build. JAYMEE T. GAMIL

The police officer nicknamed “Rock” strode in front of media cameras on Wednesday, chewing gum and declaring total war on drugs.

“This will be a fight to the death,” said Chief. Supt. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chosen by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte as his director general of the 120,000-strong Philippine National Police.

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“So, to the drug lords out there, get ready because I will run you over,” he said.

The barrel-chested Dela Rosa likewise vowed to clean up the PNP ranks of scalawags.

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“For police officers who are involved in drugs, get out now. The government is paying you to capture drug personalities, but you also get paid by drug lords? You’re pushing your luck. I will cut off your luck,” he warned.

Christopher Go, Duterte’s executive assistant, confirmed to reporters in Davao City that Dela Rosa had been selected by the presumptive President-elect to replace Director General Ricardo Marquez, who earlier announced he would turn in his resignation as PNP chief upon Duterte’s assumption of the presidency on June 30.

Walks the talk

Like his patron, Dela Rosa cusses, talks tough and walks the talk.

Following news reports that he would head the police hierarchy, Dela Rosa appeared at Camp Crame on Wednesday and talked to the media at the lobby of the PNP headquarters building.

The 54-year-old said he would do his best to carry out Duterte’s vow to stamp out criminality in three to six months of his presidency—the centerpiece of Duterte’s campaign platform that swept him to an unprecedented landslide vote in the May 9 elections.

Officials said the drug problem affected 65 percent of the nation’s barangays, while 95 percent of barangays in Metro Manila were grappling with drug abuse.

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 ‘We will bury you’

Asked for a message to criminals, Dela Rosa said, “We will not only crush you, we will bury you.”

He gave this assurance in the same tough manner the cuss-spouting Duterte would: “Kakayanin natin. Hindi naman pwede—(expletive) pa-chief PNP chief PNP ka tapos hindi mo kakayanin. Dapat kayanin mo. (We’ll bear it … You can’t be PNP chief and not bear it. You should.)”

But Dela Rosa turned humble when asked for a message to the public: “I hope I won’t fail you. To all Filipinos, we will do all we can, even if it will cost our lives.”

The similarity in mannerisms between Dela Rosa and Duterte comes as no surprise. The officer has always been upfront that Duterte has been a great influence in his career.

“He’s a leader with big balls. He’s not one to run away from problems. He will not leave you behind, he has a big heart and will really take care of you,” Dela Rosa said of his boss.

Summary killings

Asked about his position on summary killings, a charge that has hounded Duterte’s leadership, Dela Rosa played coy, simply replying: “Ayoko niyan (I don’t want that).”

While careful not to preempt Duterte’s official announcement of his appointment, Dela Rosa nevertheless confirmed Duterte had already spoken to him about the post as early as Sunday evening.

Dela Rosa said Marquez, his upperclassman by four years at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), had talked to him, advising him to “start acting like the father of the organization.”

“Maybe the upperclassmen think I will remove them to replace them with my 1986 classmates, but that shouldn’t be what the father of the organization will do. There should be no favorite sons. You should treat them equally, according to merits. Whoever we’ll see can help in three to six months, that should be who we should give positions to,” Dela Rosa said.

His appointment—from one star to four—would effectively bypass his upperclassmen who are now senior officers in the PNP command group and Directorial Staff, including Director Generoso Cerbo Jr. of the 1984 PMA class, currently chief of the PNP Directorate for Intelligence.

The Rock

As of April 30, there are 19 police officials with the rank of director (two star); 105 with the rank of chief superintendent, one star.

Dela Rosa explained his nickname “Bato” comes from the Davao del Sur barangay he hailed from. But he said he also earned the moniker upon graduation from the Scout Ranger course “because my body was rock-hard.”

These days, the officer sports a skinhead, muscles bulging out of his uniform. He draws comparison to American actor and wrestler Dwayne Johnson whose ring name is “The Rock.”

Days before the elections, Dela Rosa, currently head of the PNP Human Resource and Doctrine Development, courted controversy and earned an administrative investigation for his Facebook posts in which he was suspected of displaying partisanship for Duterte.

A post on May 1, in which he vowed that the Camp Crame-based Reactionary Standby Support Force, which he then led, would “crush” those who would cheat and cause trouble during the polls.

In another post in March, Dela Rosa greeted Duterte on his birthday, and called him “the greatest leader on earth.”

Dela Rosa served as Davao City police chief from 2011 to 2013. He is known to  be hardworking.

Drugless society

He was largely credited for the drastic reduction in the volume of shabu in  the city when he implemented “Oplan Tukhang (Tuktok-Hangyo),” which saw police authorities knocking on the doors of suspected drug pushers and asking them to stop. Several suspected drug pushers were allegedly killed during the operation.

“I would have wanted to accomplish a drugless society where there is zero drug use but this is almost impossible,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa was also the police chief when three suspected kidnappers of a Quezon City-based Chinese businesswoman were killed during a shootout in Davao City in  July 2013.

He is a disciplinarian who has repeatedly told his men the police force has no room for cowards and laggards.

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