Favorite Son

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PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa (photo: inquirer.net)

I DON’T GET why Digong Duterte is picking on the NBI. It’s the PNP, after all, that’s done more to wreak terror, embarrass the country, and raise his hackles in just 7 months. He’s being all warm and fuzzy with PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa yet prickly with NBI Director Dante Gierran. Why?

Duterte was particularly nasty to Gierran at his impromptu press conference on January 29, when he implied the involvement of some Bureau personnel in the Jee Ick Joo case.

“So I am addressing myself to Dante Gierran. Alam mo I will let you in… noong tinanong ko ‘yan siya, sabi ko Dante, sinong ma-recommend mong NBI director? (Gierran said,) ‘Marami naman kami sir pero ako na lang sir?’ Oo I expected that answer from you. Isa pang tanong ko sa ‘yo Dante, kaya mo bang pumatay ng ahente mo pag nakasala? Ang sinagot mo sakin, ‘Yes sir.’ So mangongolekta na ako sa guarantee mo. Assets nyo yan. alam niyo kung nasaan.” 

Duterte went on to threaten the absent Gierran:

“Assets ninyo ‘yan, alam ninyo kung saan [ang mga ‘yan]. Kung hindi mo makuha iyan, I might relieve you… If you don’t get [them] it’s gonna be your neck.”

It sounded worse live and was obviously intended to pressure, if not shame Gierran. Meanwhile, Bato sat at the presidential table, looking grim and a bit out of his element. He had admitted to having resigned earlier so as not “to belabor the President” and “add to more embarrassment to the country,” at last displaying the delicadeza expected of him weeks ago.

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The hastily-called press conference on January 29 to announce Duterte’s rejection of dela Rosa’s resignation. (Rappler.com)

But Duterte dismissed his resignation. He called the presscon precisely to announce that he had “declined” it. “What good will it do…?” he asked, while he excused dela Rosa’s lapses even as he acknowledged the principle of command responsibility. At the end of the table, Bato behaved like a chastened favorite son. Duterte almost tripped over himself explaining Bato’s retention, citing, among other things, his valuable support that contributed to Duterte’s success as Davao mayor. It was all very personal and made me want to say, “awww…”

It was also irrational. And glaringly unfair. Bato has repeatedly failed to control and castigate his men (which Duterte has overlooked), while this appears to be the first time under this dispensation that the NBI has been implicated in a high-profile case, and weakly at that. The NBI “asset” (a.k.a. “striker” and “errand boy”) Jerry Omlang categorically denied the involvement of NBI agents in the Jee kidnap-slay. Omlang is not an agent and is the only one connected with the Bureau who has been positively identified. Why pick on Gierran then? Why demand his neck when he so tenderly spared Bato’s?

I ask these questions not because I am partial, like Duterte, but because I fear a whitewash. The NBI to date has not received any flak and was even commended by Senator Ping Lacson at his January 26 committee hearing for its investigation of the Espinosa rubout. Duterte dubiously backed the suspects in that crime and even ordered their reinstatement, if you recall – yet the NBI went ahead and called a spade a spade. Now suddenly, it is on the sharp end of Duterte’s spear.

It is to the NBI that Jee Ick Joo’s wife, Choi Kyung Jin, went for assistance when the PNP was dragging its heels in finding him. It is with the NBI that dismissed SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel has sought safety pending the reinvestigation of the case. But now Koko Pimentel, Bato, and Duterte (who started it all), are raising doubts about the Bureau’s integrity. Acting on nebulous evidence, Duterte has ordered the NBI to desist from investigating drug cases because, he declares with self-righteous umbrage, “I have lost trust in you” as he says he has with the PNP. If indeed he has, then it is proper, and becoming of him as president, to provide the justification for such distrust. It should be more than mere rumor or voices in the wind.

In response (and probably as a palliative for the bellicose Duterte), Gierran has relieved key officers and reassigned them although there has been no persuasive proof of their participation in Jee’s abduction and murder. For his part, dela Rosa made the Angeles rogue cops do push-ups. He and dela Rosa met recently with Lacson to discuss their agencies’ collaboration on the investigation.

PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa attends the senate hearing on the alleged Tokhang for Ransom of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the Senate in Pasay City on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and NBI Director Dante Gierran attend the senate hearing on the alleged Tokhang for Ransom of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the Senate in Pasay City on Thursday, January 26, 2017. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Duterte has cast a pall on a heretofore reliable bureau with no recent hint of anomaly. I don’t doubt it has its skeletons and can do with a thorough cleaning, just to be sure – but prior to the Jee case it was not connected with rank criminality, vice, and bumbling like the PNP. I cannot understand this presidential double standard. As a citizen of the Republic, I need to be assured that there is at least one law enforcement institution in this country that I can run to when I have been wronged and not fear further victimization. Right now, the PNP is not it.

I feel like Duterte wants to discredit the NBI so that I must choose the PNP against my better judgment. If the principle of command responsibility is Duterte’s criterion for his sanctions then Bato fails it several times over. If the president chooses to be lenient to dela Rosa then he must employ the same policy for Gierran. Of course, both are under his jurisdiction and are at his beck and call. Still the President is beholden and accountable to the people, and if he continues to govern with patent arbitrariness to serve his favored few, then he betrays our trust. And we will know what to do.

Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread. – Proverbs 28:21

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