24 town police chiefs relieved for 'low performance' in anti-illegal drugs operations

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Camp Crame, National Headquarters of the Philippine National Police [File photo]

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 13) — Twenty-four town police chiefs from the Mimaropa region have been sacked for poor performance in the anti-illegal drugs campaign, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Wednesday.

PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde commended the region's police officials for following his directive to remove officers who perform poorly. He said he reiterated the instruction at Wednesday's PNP command conference.

The cops were marked as having had "no [or] low accomplishments" between December 5, 2017 to May 31, 2018. They will be reassigned to different localities.

Mimaropa Regional Director PC Supt. Emmanuel Luis Delgado Licup approved their relief on the recommendation of the Oversight Committee on Illegal Drugs. A police statement said the officers failed to meet requirements set by the committee, which is chaired by Deputy Regional Director for Operations PC Supt. Ferdinand Garay.

Last week, Human Rights Watch lamented the promotion of police officers who oversaw operations that resulted in suspects' deaths. Previous reports have also detailed "kill rewards" under the drug war.

However, Licup denied that the underperformance of the relieved officers had to do with meeting a quota for arrests or deaths.

When asked what the committee standards were, he explained that the men fell short in terms of accounting for personalities on their high value target list under Oplan Double Barrel or the watchlist under Oplan Tokhang.

"If you have somebody listed as (a high value target), dapat may ginawang mga [there should be] operations... In short, you build up a case against him," Licup told CNN Philippines in a phone call.

Under Oplan Tokhang — a police operation where cops go door to door to "knock and plead" with suspects — officers should convince suspects to submit themselves to inspection or rehabilitation.

"Kung na-convince mo, that's a point para sa iyo [If you convince them, that's a point for you]," Licup added.

If certain personalities were mistaken or no longer live in the area, the onus is on the policemen to prove this in their reports.

If the suspects maintain their innocence, they should still submit themselves to interview, and the presiding officer is required to profile them.

"The police has to defend his case na itong tao na to, baka na-drag lang ang pangalan [saying that this guy's name was just dragged into it]," said Licup.

The lists are provided by the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC), of which PNP is a member.

What's next for 24 cops?

Licup warned the remaining 53 town police chiefs in the region that they will "face the same fate" as their colleagues unless they step up their efforts to run after criminals.

However, he assured that the policemen will be given a second chance to uphold their duties elsewhere.

"This is not something punitive," said Licup. "They're given the chance to get a fresh start if they go to another place and start anew."

The sacked police officials include:

One from Irawan Police Station in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Four from Bongabong, Bulalacao, San Teodoro, Mansalay in Oriental Mindoro;

Five from Abra de Ilog, Calintaan, Looc, Lubang, Paluan in Occidental Mindoro;

One from Sta. Cruz in Marinduque;

Five from Alcantara, Calatrava, Ferrol, San Agustin, and Sta. Fe in Romblon; and

Eight from Aborlan, Agutaya, Balabac, Bataraza, Brooke's Point, Culion, Linapacan, and Quezon in Palawan.

Albayalde said regional directors are free to make calls relieving their men.

"May power sila magrelieve, huwag na hintayin na kami pa magdeliberate... because if walang aksyon ang regional director, then damay siya dahil wala siyang ginagawa on his level," said Albayalde.

[Transcript: They have the power to relieve (men), and not to wait for us to deliberate... because if the regional director doesn't act, he might be implicated later on for not doing anything on his level.]

President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left more than 4,000 drug suspects dead in police operations, according to government data. Human rights watchdogs, however, estimate that the bloody campaign has left up to 13,000 suspects dead,  including victims of vigilante-style operations.