Running rings around ‘Bato’?
How far is the office of Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa from the PNP’s Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit?
The question needs to be asked in light of the astounding revelation that the rogue policeman Dela Rosa had lately publicly excoriated for suspected involvement in the “tokhang”-for-ransom case involving a Korean national—who he said had repeatedly ignored summonses to report and explain his actions to his superiors—turned out to have been assigned to that unit in Camp Crame all along.
SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel has been identified as the police officer who led a group of armed men that barged into the home of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in Angeles City in October 2016 on the pretext of a drug raid. He was then variously seen on CCTV driving one of the cars tagged as getaway vehicles and withdrawing money using the ATM card provided by the Korean’s wife. The wife has paid ransom of P5 million, but her husband remains missing to this day. She told the Inquirer that she had been asked to produce another P4.5 million for his release.
Since news of the kidnapping Sta. Isabel has also been missing, or so Dela Rosa seemed to have been told by his subordinates. The PNP chief fumed on TV over the officer’s nonappearance and called on him to surrender or be shot on sight. He also publicly aired his suspicion about the officer’s guilt, based on uncovered records showing that Sta. Isabel was involved in another kidnapping case in the 1990s. What he wasn’t told—apparently deliberately, for how could such an oversight be explained?—was that the officer had been reassigned to another PNP office.
Sta. Isabel is now reportedly in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation. Earlier, he found the gumption not only to resign from the PNP, claiming that he is being framed, but also to march into his superiors’ offices, accompanied by two lawyers, to turn over his badge. He has denied involvement in the kidnapping, but the police say they have “the goods on him.” But no charges have yet been filed. In all this, the most urgent question remains: Where is the Korean businessman—or at least his body, because even Dela Rosa has said he may no longer be alive?
How this case has unfolded is yet another shameful mark on the PNP. Not only because a cop appears to have perverted the Duterte administration’s flagship campaign against drugs and crime to commit a heinous act, but also because, more alarmingly, the organization he belongs to appears to have no idea of how to handle his case with any sense of efficiency.
The PNP’s own chief is caught unaware of staff movements, as if his lieutenants and underlings were running rings around him. Dela Rosa fulminates on TV against Sta. Isabel, but the latter is able to walk away, three months after his alleged crime, with no case pending against him. Why was he still in the rolls in the first place, given his supposed earlier involvement in another kidnapping case? He was reportedly reinstated after he turned over some P2 million in ransom money, claiming it was used in an attempt to bribe him. Sounds familiar? That’s essentially the same absurd defense offered by two immigration lawyers recently caught on camera receiving millions of pesos from casino mogul Jack Lam.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson has said the Korean national’s kidnapping may not be an isolated case: A Chinese-Filipino businessman was also apparently abducted under the same circumstances in Meycauayan, Bulacan, last year. How many other similar crimes are being committed in the name of the administration’s war on drugs, by the very same lawmen tasked to enforce it? More crucially, who exactly is in charge?
Lacson mentioned a Senate inquiry. It’s time to take a good, hard look at this precarious state of affairs.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.