Any time high ranking police officers are accused of involvement in illegal drugs, it sends a wrong signal to the public the police is sworn to protect.
It is not only the reputation of the entire law enforcement establishment that is tarnished but the country as well.
We often hear and read about so called narco-states and no one among us would like our country to be categorized as such and we are certainly very far from that. But if our police leadership. both uniformed and civilian, will not be careful and not act forcefully and decisively on infractions, we will get there in no time at all.
The confiscation of 990 kilos of methamphetamine valued at about P6.7B in a raid in Manila late last year has been in the headlines due to some alleged irregularities. Secretary Benhur Abalos of the DILG has accused a score of police personnel in the PNP Drug Enforcement Group and one three-star General officer in the PNP Command Group of irregular conduct.
This resulted in the relief of the PNPDEG Director while others were forced to go on leave.
All because the amount of methamphetamine confiscated was apparently not declared truthfully by the PNP operating team.
It appears at the very least, about 42 kilos of shabu were pilfered.
The PNP initiated an investigation and 49 officers and men of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group are now facing various administrative and criminal charges.
Due to the estimated value of the illegal drug haul, some publications have been calling it the biggest ever.
Actually, it is not.
If my memory serves me right, the illegal drug haul in an operation conducted in Tagaytay City in the early 1990s resulted in the confiscation of between 2,000 and 4,000 kilos and, like the Manila police operation, about half of the haul in that Tagaytay operation was also suspected to have simply vanished into thin air.
There was also that local government official who was intercepted aboard an ambulance full of methamphetamine.
A lot of the cargo aboard that ambulance also apparently went missing.
The pilferage of confiscated drugs is therefore nothing new.
This is actually the nature of many illegal drug operations.
Since the 1990s, many in government, whether they are in law enforcement or local government units, have fallen due to corruption brought about by illegal drugs.
The temptation is simply too difficult to resist.
As I have written in the past, the money involved in this activity is mind-boggling. I remember one officer who served under me saying he never imagined the kind of money involved in the illegal drug trade until he was assigned to a drug enforcement unit.
All we have to do is read the international news to learn of the number of very high ranking government officials in many countries that have been prosecuted because of their involvement in illegal drugs.
All these should tell us the difficulty of battling the illegal drug menace.
If it were that easy, the previous administration should have been able to stop it with the number of people that were killed.
Towards the end of President Duterte’s term, he was forced to admit the problem was very much alive and kicking.
In this case involving the 990 confiscated methamphetamine, it appears the DILG Secretary has taken a stand which is a good step moving forward.
This is because the only way to improve enforcement and gain the public’s trust is to investigate every case without exception and impose the necessary punishment to those found guilty of corruption also without any exception.
The problem in the past was that many cases were left hanging, allowing guilty individuals to escape unpunished.
More, therefore, needs to be done.
The Marcos administration as we know is also dead serious on illegal drugs but with a new strategy.
The result so far has been encouraging.
For one, a lot less people are being killed during many police operations.
What has not been done was to institute a very high qualifications standards for people being assigned or recruited to our drug enforcement agencies which should include a system of constant monitoring to keep everybody on guard.
This will not completely eradicate corruption but will hopefully reduce it down to the barest minimum.
Another is going after the source.
Based on all those arrested identified as the source of methamphetamine, we know that most if not all are foreigners.
They should be the subject of dedicated police operations.
With just a week before his retirement, PNP Chief made a plea to his boss, DILG Secretary BenHur Abalos to be careful about the many information he is receiving, given the dynamics of investigating big illegal drug cases.
This is because this can easily derail the PNP from its real focus which is the drug lords.
A reasonable plea but perhaps the PNP should just proceed and investigate the current case fairly.
Those who committed infractions should be punished but those who did not commit any violations should be exonerated.
The result of the investigation must not be because of any pressure from any source but based solely on the evidence.
General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. should not worry too much about his legacy.
After all, he has done a good job as PNP Chief.