Dela Rosa to CBCP: Would you rather we let drug problem continue?
MANILA, Philippines – "Ano'ng gusto nila? Hayaan na lang namin ang problema sa drugs, 'yun [ba] ang gusto nila?" (What do they want us to do? Allow the drug problem to continue?)
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa on Monday, February 6, lashed out against the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), following the Church leaders' strongest statement yet against deaths in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
"You know, please tell them I can communicate to God without passing through them. I believe in God, Katoliko ako. 'Pag sinasabi natin na meron 'yung PNP na hindi perfect, merong sindikatong pulis... bakit, 'yung pari mismo they are not perfect. Wala [ba] silang ginagawang kalokohan?" said Dela Rosa, when asked to react to a CBCP pastoral letter that denounced a "reign of terror" against the poor in the anti-drug war.
(You know, please tell them I can communicate to God without passing through them. I believe in God, I am Catholic. When they say that the PNP has members who are not perfect, that some cops are part of syndicates… why, aren't priests imperfect too? Aren't some of them up to no good?)
The CBCP statement, which was released on Sunday, February 5, but signed on January 30, expressed "[deep concern] due to the many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs."
"An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account," CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said on behalf of the group.
More than 7,000 deaths have been associated with Duterte's war on drugs, with over 2,500 of them drug suspects killed during police operations. The rest are called "deaths under investigation" (DUIs) or apparent summary killings with possible links to the war on drugs.
The PNP, however, has insisted that not all DUIs are necessarily linked to their anti-drug campaign.
Since the war on drugs was launched, police have long had to defend themselves from allegations of abuse. Dela Rosa has consistently defended his men and women, saying he always presumed regularity in police operations.
But the abduction and murder of a South Korean businessman triggered a series of changes in the war on drugs. Duterte ordered a stop to all anti-drug operations and the dismantling of all PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) units.
South Korean Jee Ick Joo was kidnapped, allegedly by AIDG members, from his Angeles City home in October 2016. News of his abduction and his subsequent murder inside PNP headquarters Camp Crame, however, only made headlines in January 2017.
Dela Rosa has always been vocal about his faith in God and even attended Mass in Camp Crame for the war on drugs.
"I go to church because I respect the Church. Hindi lahat ng pari, masama. So dapat gano'n rin ang tingin nila sa amin (Not all priests are bad. They should view us that way too)," added the PNP chief.
Dela Rosa's sentiments echo that of Duterte, who has pointed out the "hypocrisy" of Catholic priests' criticism when they themselves also commit sin.
But Villegas earlier said: "We in the Church will continue to speak against evil men as we acknowledge and repent [for] our own shortcomings. We will do this even if it will bring persecution upon us because we are all brothers and sisters responsible for each other."
Dela Rosa had said early on that the PNP was "winning" the war on drugs. But that was before a series of high-profile controversies involving cops themselves. In November 2016, alleged drug personality Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr was shot dead inside his jail cell.