The fair and fearless General Magalong
Police Gen. (retired) Benjamin “Benjie” Magalong, now mayor of Baguio City, shot back into the public eye when he testified before the Senate in public and in executive session, about ninja cops and their “agaw-bato” schemes. It was a real eye-opener, because unlike Rafael Ragos, the star witness of the previous hearing, Magalong’s record is more than admirable.
Remember Ragos’ testimony a couple of weeks ago, which Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson and Francis Tolentino seemed to have swallowed hook, line and sinker? Well, Reader, I am glad to say that Magalong showed up Ragos for what he was—someone up to his neck in the corruption and drugs that were going on (and apparently still are) in the New Bilibid Prison.
It is great to have a Magalong testify in the Senate. The man exemplifies what is best in the police, and in the military. Magalong is a Philippine Military Academy graduate (magna cum laude), and in his 38-plus years’ career, he garnered 188 medals and awards. A combat veteran who obviously served with distinction and upheld his principles, his career, which includes the Special Action Force (SAF), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, has had its ups and downs. The downs include his being accused of plotting to assassinate then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (ultimately proven to be baseless), and then sometime in 2006, imprisonment for three months.
Imprisonment? What’s the story? Magalong didn’t like that the SAF, of which he was chief of staff, was being used for political purposes (in their case, to steal ballots), as were other elements of the military. So he, together with his commander, Gen. Marcelino Franco, with Gen. Danny Lim of the Scout Rangers and Col. Ariel Querubin of the Marines, decided to demonstrate against the use of the military
for political purposes. They went on the march—300 Marines, 400 Scout Rangers and 1,000 Scout Rangers. Naturally, they were accused of plotting rebellion.
A career-ender, one would think. But I guess you can’t hold a man of his caliber down, and he went on to become a major general. The ups in his career, at least to me, included keeping the peace in Abra during elections, quelling the prison riot of the Abu Sayyaf in Camp Bagong Diwa, and finally, when he was appointed the chair of the PNP Board of Inquiry on the Mamasapano incident. That appointment showed how intrinsically fair, and tough, and honest he was. No ass-licking there, no scratch-my-back-and-I’ll scratch yours. He told it like it was—to the President, to his colleagues and to the general public. I read that report, and I was impressed (I never met General Magalong) at its incisiveness and fearlessness. It gave me hope for the PNP.
And, speaking of the PNP and the ninja cops business that Magalong described, I remember my first interview with Gen. Oscar Albayalde, when he was still head of the NCR police. I remember asking him what was being done with the so-called rogue policemen, of which the NCR had a great deal of. His answer was that they were sent to Mindanao. Why not outright dismissal? Frankly, I don’t remember his answer, but it had something to do with when you have no allies, you can’t make much mischief. You have to get the policemen out of their comfort zones and they will behave.
The ninja cops in Manila were, according to the news reports, transferred to Quezon City and to other places in Metro Manila, and according to someone from the PNP, instead of getting better, things got worse, because “nanganak”—they formed new groups in the places where they were sent. Perhaps they should have been transferred to Mindanao, following Albayalde’s logic. But then, why should Mindanao be a dumping place? And didn’t President Duterte say that Marawi was a huge center for the drug trade? What role did our transferred policemen play?
However, I do not agree with the Senate that the names of the ninja cops and their protectors named by Magalong in executive session should be publicized. As I did not agree when President Duterte and the PNP named names in matrices and narcolists of people allegedly in the drug trade, without either showing where they got those names or showing what the evidence was. It is not right that just because the PNP was so easy with naming names, then the Senate would be just as easy with naming PNP names. Two wrongs do not make a right.
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