"Bato" Redeems Himself

In light of the scandal engulfing the Philippine National Police (PNP), the chief of the force – Roland “Bato” dela Rosa – has suspended the infamous “War on Drugs”. In lieu of drug addicts, Bato has vowed to go after the true enemy.

The Duterte administration has long been chastised for leading “a war against the poor” with its’ notorious crackdown on illegal drugs. Rightly so, most of the casualties in the campaign known as “Oplan Tokhang” have been low-level drug users and drug peddlers while the elite drug manufacturers and drug dealers remain untouched.

That statistic is not an unfortunate coincidence, but rather the product of a corrupt law enforcement agency. Filipino police officers have long held a bad reputation, giving them free rein to direct a brutal crackdown on the populace is a bad idea from the start.

That hypothesis was proven recently, when the country learned that the abduction of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo was perpetrated by corrupt officers in the PNP. Joo was kidnapped for ransom, and when that ransom was not met the victim was executed – with the police justifying that he was a big-time drug dealer in the country.


In a press conference addressing the controversy, President Duterte and Police Chief Bato confronted the media and expressed their embarrassment over the brazen lawlessness that plagues the police force. Immediately, they announced the end of the “war on drugs” and replaced it instead with a “war on scalawags” – that is, a crackdown on corruption in the police force.

A much needed reform that should have happened several administrations ago.

Corruption in the PNP is an open secret, cops are mockingly called kotong (bribe) cops by the Filipino populace because of their propensity to accept bribes particularly in traffic enforcement. There have also been several incidences of high-ranking police officers being involved in corruption scandals, the latest saga involving a Korean businessman adds another to that list.

During the press conference, President Duterte and General dela Rosa expressed their disappointment and “shock” that the PNP could be involved in such lawlessness. Clearly these two men had not been paying attention to the news in the past decade.

When he was elected last May and announced the start of his drug war thereafter, the President explicitly permitted his police force to be brutal in their crackdown on the drug trade – promising that none of them would go to jail for unlawful killings. General Bato affirmed that promise and led the police force in the months after.

When you give the corrupt police force a blank cheque to conduct their dirty deeds then expect lapses in justice to occur – the case of Jee Ick Joo is a glaring example of that.

Thankfully, General Bato has redeemed himself by signalling the suspension of the anti-drug operations of his police force and is now focusing on weeding out “scalawags” within the force. Based on the perceived gravity of corruption in the police force, we can expect this crackdown to be even more bloody and more tenuous than the previous one.