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Finger-pointing after ‘Tokhang for ransom’

25 January 2017

Duterte and dela Rosa with families of Mamasapano 44.
When it emerged that a policeman killed a South Korean businessman right inside Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police headquarters, after he was kidnapped from his home, the crime quickly earned the monicker “Tokhang for ransom”.

The murder of Jee Ick-Joo, an executive of the Hanjin shipbuilding firm which operates in Subic export zone,   embarrassed the government of President Duterte. Media and online commenters blamed  it on the climate of impunity that was fed by the government’s anti-drug drive and Duterte’s promise to back up the policemen. They said the drive, called “Oplan Tokhang” and killed more than 6,000 people since Duterte took office last year, has emboldened the criminals within PNP’s ranks.

Investigations had been conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation and PNP, criminal charges have been filed against policemen led by SPO3 Ricky Sta Isabel, but the top officials appeared to take one more step: wash off the embarrassment.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was the first to call for PNP  Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to resign, to spare President Duterte from embarrassment.

The call, however, fizzled out when Duterte himself said he still needed dela Rosa for the anti-drug campaign.

For his part, dela Rosa pointed his fingers at the media, accusing reporters of destroying the credibility of the PNP when they interviewed Jinky Sta. Isabel, wife of alleged mastermind.

“Ang mahirap dito ‘yung ibang media, ‘yung gumagawa ng kasalanan ‘yun pa ang gagawing hero,” he told a press briefing on January 23.

Jinky had earlier presented evidence, including closed circuit television camera footages and recorded phone calls, to prove their innocence and involvement of higher officials. She claimed the suspect are being framed.

Dela Rosa said: “Kami na nga ‘yung nadidiin dahil sa kasamaan na ginawa ng asawa niya, ngayon lalo pa kami papasamain. Where’s justice?”

Dela Rosa added, referring to the media: “Ano kasama ba kayo sa plano ‘pag ganun?”

But it appeared that dela Rosa had another target by opening another front in the conversation: ex-President Benigno Aquino III.

 Aquino, he said, should be held accountable for the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the infamous January 2015 operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“Kung tutuusin, lahat doon dapat managot,” said dela Rosa, who was part of the Board of Inquiry that investigated the incident. “Ang recommendation namin sa Board of Inquiry [ay] hanggang sa highest official na involved doon sa operation na ‘yun ang dapat managot.”

Asked if he thinks Aquino should also be held accountable, dela Rosa said: “Oo, dapat hanggang sa president dapat.”

The BOI said Aquino violated the PNP chain of command when he allowed then-suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima to get involved in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus, the mission to neutralize high-value targets, including Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, the target of the operation in Mamasapano.

“The chain of the command in the PNP was violated. The President, the suspended CPNP Purisima, and the former Director SAF [Getulio] Napeñas kept the information to themselves and deliberately failed to inform the OIC PNP and the SILG,” the BOI said in its report.

“The Chain of Command should be observed in running mission operations,” it added.

The panel said Aquino “bypassed the established PNP Chain of Command” by dealing “directly” with sacked Special Action Force chief Dir. Getulio Napeñas Jr. instead of with the officer-in-charge Deputy Dir. Gen. Leonardo Espina.

Dela Rosa said it is up to President Duterte if cases will be pursued against Aquino and the others.
On Jan 27, Duterte gazve the answer when he the met with the families of the Mamasapano 44. He said, referring to Aquino: “You fed the policemen to the lion’s den.” He also said he will create a commission to investigate the case.

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