MANILA - The country's top police official said Thursday he will not name 357 police officers on President Rodrigo Duterte's "narco-list."
Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa said he made a promise to the 357 police officers that he would "observe confidentiality." The 357, with ranks from patrolman to brigadier general, are accused of crimes such as coddling alleged drug lords and pushers, extortion, or illegal gambling.
"When you open your mouth as Chief PNP, it becomes policy. Once I open my mouth and comment on the personalities who are listed in the 357, baka hindi na ma-adjudicate ng maayos kasi sinabi na ni chief na ganyan," Gamboa explained in an interview with ANC's Headstart.
"I want them to enjoy the impartiality that they should be afforded of kasi it will undertake 2 processes: first at the regional adjudication board then it will be submitted to the national adjudication board. After that they will give their recommendation to me. Of course I will still have the discretion to study the recommendation."
This is not the first time that the Duterte administration has released a list of names of personalities tagged in illegal drugs. In March 2019, Duterte released a list of 46 local officials allegedly involved in drugs.
Prior to that, the President also tagged 164 people in illegal drugs in four separate occasions since the war on drugs campaign started on July 1, 2016.
But this is the first time that list containing names of police officers with alleged involvement in illegal drugs was released.
"This is a composition of 3 lists that are now in the possession of the PNP and then we extracted those PNP members that's why we have now the 357," the PNP chief said.
Of the 357, one died last week, 15 availed of optional retirement, 43 did not report for work and the rest were accounted for.
"I promised that in one month's time those who are not guilty will be recommended to the President. But of course, to those who are, watch out for yourself," he said.
He said this is to end the suffering that will be endured by the families and the police officers on the list who are not actually involved in the drug trade.
MUM ON ESPENIDO'S INCLUSION IN DRUG LIST
Included in the narco-list is the name of controversial 'drug war' cop Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido. However, Gamboa refused to confirm if this is true.
"I will not confirm nor deny that Espenido is on the list and of all the other names they want to link to the drug list that we are now in possession of," he said.
Espenido was recently relieved as deputy chief for operations of the Bacolod City Police. He is known for leading the anti-illegal drugs operation that resulted in the death of Ozamiz mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and his wife in July 2017.
He was also the police chief of Albuera when former mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in his jail cell after supposedly engaging policemen who served a search warrant in a firefight.
OPTIONAL EARLY RETIREMENT
Gamboa meanwhile said that offering them optional retirement to police officers was not meant to clear them of any wrongdoing.
"Am I trying to clear them? No, because it was emphasized that this is an option you can avail of for purposes na hindi n'yo na pahirapan ang PNP."
He warned they would be placed on a separate list if proven that they have links to narcotics.
When asked why police officers would still get retirement benefits if found guilty, Gamboa said it is in recognition of the services they rendered.
"When you serve government, when you put sweat, put your life on the line, this is an option in recognition also of the services that they have rendered. If you've served 15 years in government, nagpawis ka rin. I promised the public if ever they are involved we will pursue them," he said.