MANILA – The Philippines’ police chief broke down before a Senate inquiry on Wednesday 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.
Philippines — Emotional Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa cries over erring cops, November 23, 2016. Phil Star photo
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 those claims as lies.
Close to 2,500 people were killed in the first four months of Duterte’s presidency, mostly in police operations. Others were killed 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.
A former Philippine Government official told Peace and Freedom we are are “only seeing the tip of the iceberg” of “Extrajudicial killings, assassinations, vigilantes, and a cesspool of human rights violations and corruption.”
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