Philip­pine po­lice chief fights back tears, pledges loy­alty to Duterte High drama in tele­vised hear­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Philip­pines’ po­lice chief broke down be­fore a Se­nate in­quiry yes­ter­day and vowed to stand by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs, af­ter a nar­cotics king­pin tes­ti­fied to en­trenched po­lice in­volve­ment in the il­licit trade. Amid high drama in the tele­vised hear­ing, an emo­tional Ron­ald dela Rosa gri­maced and held back tears in an­i­mated re­marks in which he promised to rid po­lice ranks of crooked el­e­ments. Dela Rosa, a stocky, celebrity-like gen­eral nick­named “Bato” (Rock), was re­spond­ing to hours of tes­ti­mony from Ker­win Espinosa, a con­fessed drugs dealer and son of a mayor who was shot dead last month by po­lice while in prison on re­mand for nar­cotics links.

“I will not sur­ren­der, I will clean up the na­tional po­lice,” Dela Rosa told sen­a­tors. “I will be with you,” Dela Rosa said of Duterte. “I will not aban­don this fight even if the pub­lic is los­ing trust in the po­lice.” Par­al­lel probes by both cham­bers of the Philip­pine leg­is­la­ture have been largely drab, though some­times highly dra­matic. The pan­els have heard grip­ping wit­ness ac­counts of all things from death squads and sor­did af­fairs to cor­rup­tion, mur­der and sex tapes. Par­tic­i­pants have in­cluded con­victed kid­nap­pers, prison gangsters, an assassin and world box­ing icon Manny Pacquiao.

In Septem­ber, a self-pro­claimed hit man tes­ti­fied to hav­ing heard Duterte or­der as­sas­si­na­tions and to hav­ing watched him kill a man with a ma­chine gun while a mayor in 1993. Duterte has re­jected that as lies. Close to 2,500 peo­ple were killed in the first four months of Duterte’s pres­i­dency, mostly in po­lice oper­a­tions and oth­ers by sus­pected vig­i­lantes. Duterte has res­o­lutely de­fended the po­lice and is out­raged by Western and ac­tivist con­cerns that ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings could be tak­ing place. Espinosa, who ar­rived at the hear­ing wear­ing a flak jacket, con­fessed to deal­ing in drugs and to pay­ing po­lice pro­tec­tion money. He ac­cused two gen­er­als and nu­mer­ous of­fi­cers on his turf of com­plic­ity.

Dela Rosa vowed to do ev­ery­thing to stop it. “I’m not su­per­man, I’m an or­di­nary po­lice­man,” he said. “But I’ll do my best to clean the po­lice force even if it will cost my life. We will sur­vive this.” Cen­tral to the probes has been Sen­a­tor Leila de Lima, who ini­ti­ated and led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Duterte’s crack­down, but found her­self ousted by his Se­nate al­lies. Days later, she was sub­ject to a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Duterte’s ac­cu­sa­tions that she her­self was in­volved in drugs deals while jus­tice min­is­ter.

It did not stop there. Duterte has hu­mil­i­ated de Lima dur­ing speeches, ac­cus­ing her of adul­tery, mak­ing a sex tape of her af­fair with her driver and bag­man, and even rec­om­mend­ing she hangs her­self. De Lima has pe­ti­tioned the Supreme Court to muz­zle Duterte. Though she has ad­mit­ted to the af­fair, she has re­jected tes­ti­mony by a string of crim­i­nals link­ing her to drugs deals. Espinosa also im­pli­cated de Lima on Wed­nes­day, say­ing he paid pro­tec­tion money to her driver on four oc­ca­sions when she was in the cabi­net.

De Lima de­nied know­ing him and said his tes­ti­mony was at gun­point, un­der duress. “May God for­give you for all your sins, and may God for­give you for all your lies about me,” she said. In an in­ter­view last week, de Lima told Reuters she feared for her life, hav­ing stood up to a pres­i­dent who had a fol­low­ing of “diehard fa­nat­ics”. “The pres­i­dent has a per­sonal vendetta against me, and then it got worse be­cause of my ini­tia­tive ... the Se­nate en­quiry, into the ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings,” she said. “He has staged all of these per­sonal at­tacks, re­veal­ing even my per­sonal pri­vate life and por­tray­ing me as an im­moral woman so that peo­ple would no longer be­lieve me.”— Reuters

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