It was I who called De la Rosa, Duterte admits
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday night admitted that it was he who ordered Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to reinstate a police official whom the Philippine National Police chief had sacked for involvement in illegal drugs.
In a talk with reporters in Davao City, Mr. Duterte said he directed his special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go to call Dela Rosa for him.
When he got Dela Rosa on the line, he told the PNP chief not to remove Supt. Marvin Marcos because the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director was being watched.
“I told him, ‘Don’t remove the guy because he is involved … I am doing an investigative job,” Mr. Duterte said.
He said Marcos’ record was tainted. He cleared Chief Supt. Asher Dolina, who was police director for Eastern Visayas in 2015, of allegations he received protection money from confessed narcotics kingpin Kerwin Espinosa.
“I learned that Dolina was clean. But Marcos was tainted,” Mr. Duterte said.
Dela Rosa sacked Marcos after Espinosa identified him during a Senate inquiry last month as one of the police officials in Eastern Visayas whom he paid for protection.
The PNP chief told reporters earlier in the week that a higher official, whom he described as his compadre (buddy), called him up and requested him to reinstate Marcos.
He said he would name the official in a closed session of the Senate inquiry into a prison gunfight in Leyte where Espinosa’s father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed by officers from Marcos’ command early on Nov. 5.
On Thursday, Sen. Leila de Lima told reporters that the intercessor was Go.
De Lima said she got the information from a PNP official, whose identity she did not disclose.
On Friday, however, Dela Rosa denied Go was the intercessor.
“Suffice it to say that I have a compadre. It’s not Go,” Dela Rosa told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony for the deployment of a fresh PNP Special Action Force battalion to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
“Let her (De Lima) tell me who her source was then I’ll identify my compadre,” he said.
Earlier Friday, Assistant Communications Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said Malacañang needed to know first who Dela Rosa’s compadre was as it was important for the public to know.
Asked whether Malacañang regarded the call to Dela Rosa from somebody from the Palace as irregular, Banaag said it was up to the PNP chief to clarify the matter.
As for De Lima’s identifying the caller as Go, Banaag said the claim could have been made to stir up trouble.
“What we’re saying is, there’s a possibility that the opinion of Senator De Lima, what’s she’s saying, could be, may possibly have been made to create trouble, sow dissent and suspicion among the ranks of those in the administration,” Banaag said.
Marcos was first relieved after the CIDG raid on Mayor Espinosa’ cell in the Leyte subprovincial jail in Baybay City on Nov. 5.
All the CIDG officers who took part in that raid were also sacked.
Espinosa surrendered to Dela Rosa in August after President Duterte publicly linked him to illegal drugs.
He was released because no charges had been filed against him, but was arrested after being indicted on weapons and drug charges.
Espinosa submitted a statement to investigators linking ranking police officials to the illegal drug business of his son Kerwin.
At 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, CIDG officers, armed with warrants, raided the jail to search Espinosa’s cell for drugs and weapons.
The CIDG officers said Espinosa opened fire on them, forcing them to fire back, killing him.
Another inmate, Raul Yap, was also killed in the alleged gunfight.
Senators looking into the prison gunfight heard testimony last month that the CIDG raiders called crime scene investigators to come to the jail before the raid.
The testimony led to the initial finding that the killing of Espinosa was “premeditated.”
Espinosa’s son Kerwin fled the country in August, but was arrested in Abu Dhabi.
He was sent back to the Philippines, and he appeared at the Senate inquiry on Nov. 23.
Espinosa testified to entrenched police involvement in his illegal drug business, saying Marcos and Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, the CIDG raiding team leader who shot Mayor Espinosa, were on his payroll.
He also named a number of other police officers whom he paid for protection. Some of the officers were even his drug suppliers, he said.
Embarrassed, Dela Rosa, who was at the hearing, broke down. He issued a second relief order for Marcos and the other officers named by Espinosa. —WITH REPORTS FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL IN MANILA AND FRINSTON LIM, INQUIRER MINDANAO
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