Palace: Cops in narco-list can still face charges despite retirement option

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 13 2020 04:17 PM

Police officers march during the Philippine National Police (PNP) flag ceremony at their headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, November 26, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Police officers going on optional retirement after being tagged in the narcotics trade can still face criminal charges, Malacañang said Thursday.

The offer of early retirement to drug-linked police officers will not prevent government from prosecuting them, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said as he noted that accepting the retirement option is similar to admitting guilt.

“It will be subject to prosecution naman, so wala namang mali doon (there's nothing wrong there). It would be different if binigyan mo ng (you give) optional retirement tapos may [waiver ng criminal] prosecution, eh ibang usapan 'yun (then there's a waiver on prosecution, that's a different matter). That will be unlawful,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

Out of 357 police officers included in a drug watchlist, 15 have so far availed of the retirement option, according to the Philippine National Police. With the offer, those who retire may evade possible administrative charges.

Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, known for leading anti-drug operations and was tagged in killings of drug-linked mayors, was revealed to be among those on the list, a report that Malacañang has yet to validate.

Panelo said the police force may have made retirement an option to speed up the adjudication process for the suspected crooked police officers. The offer came days after PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa ordered a reshuffle of key positions in the police force and a surprise drug test of senior officers.

“Kung may ebidensya laban sa'yo, fa-file-an ka pa rin ng kaso. And by getting that retirement you’re admitting that you’re involved kasi precisely 'yun ang purpose,” Panelo said.

(If there’s evidence against you, charges will still be filed.)

“As I said, getting rid of them through retirement doesn’t preclude the filing of criminal prosecution,” he added.