DO YOU SEE what I see? Have you noticed how the weakest in the Duterte phalanx is gradually being nudged out of formation, and, if I’m not mistaken, will soon be abandoned as a casualty of war (hopefully not “collateral damage”!)?
Poor Bato dela Rosa. The very qualities that make him one of the more acceptable members of Duterte’s cohort have also rendered him vulnerable to criticism and ridicule. Worse, they have exposed his master to censure. If he’s not careful, Bato might eventually expose Duterte to liability.
He is a chattermouth. He likes to shoot the breeze and, off-duty, he seems to be a really nice guy. He’s accessible and down to earth but he’s also garrulous and loose-lipped. He can’t seem to keep things to himself.
He didn’t have to clue in the media on Marvin Marcos’s reinstatement, but he did, simply because he was asked. He doesn’t prevaricate very well, nor is he expert at evasion. When Karen Davila inquired, “May nag-utos ba sa inyo, sir, na ibalik sya?” he cleared his throat enough times to cause Davila to ask him why – he was so obviously disturbed. And did you watch that presscon where he divulged that the “higher-up” who called him was a “kumpare”? When he averred, “Nakiusap lang naman…nakiusap…” he started blinking his eyes like he was suddenly in a sandstorm. The guy has no poker face; he has so many tells I almost pity him. Eventually, Duterte had to throw him a line by admitting that he was that “higher up” and kumpare. I imagine it was the remembrance of favors past which spurred that save – and what favors they must have been! Duterte is many foul things, but he is loyal.
Last Christmas, Bato proudly announced to the PNP that Malacañang was issuing cash gifts from P50,000-P400,000 because “ganyan tayo kamahal ni pangulo…lahat tayo happy.” He even boasted that he would be happiest since he stood to get the largest bonus because he was their head. Asked by media where the funds came from, he said, “Wag na kayo magtanong kung saan galing. Basta hindi yan galing sa drugs. Galing yan sa…mga…siguro intelligence fund ng presidente.” He was obviously clueless that Joint Circular 2015-01 Sec. 4.11.1 expressly prohibits the use of the presidential intelligence fund for “Salaries, wages, overtime, additional compensation, allowance or other fringe benefits of officials and employees who are employed by the government in whatever capacity or elected officials, except when authorized by law.”
This wasn’t the first time Bato accepted largesse. Remember when he and his family attended the Pacquiao-Vargas fight in Las Vegas last November as Pacman’s guest? Challenged with violating RA 6713, Bato claimed innocence and ignorance of the statute, saying, “I don’t care about propriety. All I know is that it’s free.” This prompted the Ombudsman to initiate a probe into the incident, findings of which have yet to be released. (Significantly, it was during Bato’s Las Vegas vacation that Albuera Mayor Ronald Espinosa Sr. was killed by a CIDG team led by Marvin Marcos while in police custody. Which brings us full circle in this discussion.)
He likes the limelight and confidently looms over center stage. One of his first acts as PNP Chief was to have a giant muppet of himself serve as the mascot of the national police. He occasionally plays the buffoon (note his panicked flight from a smoking firecracker he was holding recently and his stint as a brown Santa giving away gifts to Tokhang orphans last Christmas), but he is easily forgiven by his supporters because he is so cute. To compensate, he likes to mimic his boss’s hard-line stance and drops the “P” word (“patay,” not the other one) liberally when he tries to be menacing. But he never quite achieves Duterte’s hardcore malevolence; Bato’s too placid, and he looks too much like his muppet. That’s probably why those who should fear him end up wanting to have a beer with him instead.
Now there is the abduction-murder of Korean executive Jee Ick Joo under Bato’s nose and in his backyard. What a scandal, and pretty hard to muffle. The PNP spokesman has defended him against calls for his resignation; so have some senators, as well as presidential legal counsel Sal Panelo (who knows everything, of course, and is utterly credible).
But lo, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is singing another tune. Saying that Bato has “clearly lost the respect of his people,” Alvarez cited the PNP Chief’s numerous faux pas as glaring reasons for Bato to “buckle down to work or better yet give the job to someone else who is dead serious in leading the PNP in its multi-pronged war against drugs, criminals and the scalawags within its ranks.” Them’s fighting words.
This gives me reason to believe that the final push out of the phalanx is either in the works or will happen fairly soon. How do you deal with a stouthearted, faithful soldier who is simultaneously your weakest link? You send your henchmen to dispatch him.
Now, I imagine Bato is getting a whiff of all this, having been with Duterte for so long. Surely, he can read the signs. He may play the loyal praetorian to the end and take the fall for his beloved Caesar. After all, Bato’s various slips are slowly heightening Duterte’s risk of exposure and possible impeachment. Or he may assert his independence, gather up what’s left of his dignity and resign now.
I think that simple act of delicadeza will do much to restore the larger public’s faith in him. By resigning and distancing himself from the illegitimate acts of this administration, Bato dela Rosa will be performing a higher service than he has by encouraging the demise of over 6,000 individuals. If he owns up to his failure to control his troops; if he makes himself accountable for his part in ushering in Duterte’s culture of death; if he admits the abuses it has spurred within the ranks of the police, then he will do much to restore some sanity to our increasingly surreal existence.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.