Magalong is fighting the real drug war
I’m including Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong in my roster of emergent leaders who belong to a breed vastly different from the plague of politicians who have brought ruin and damnation in this country.
In an earlier article (“Isko, Vico and Kaka” 5/27/19), I wrote about the electoral triumph of a refreshing batch of new leaders “who are different from the pestilence of wayward politicians.” They are Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto and Dinagat Island province Gov. Kaka Bag-ao. Magalong is fearlessly standing up for the truth by unmasking cops who lead double lives as drug lords.
Before he won as city mayor, Magalong served as a military and police officer for 38 years. Apart from the distinguished positions he held, the medals he earned and the near-death experience he had with a bullet piercing his Kevlar helmet, what’s noteworthy about Magalong is that he has a history of risking his life and career to stand up for his principles.
In the three successive presidencies of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte, Magalong figured in controversies that shook the foundations of the first two, and he’s in the middle of a third controversy that’s exposing the duplicity of the present administration’s drug war.
During the Arroyo presidency, Magalong was among a group of military and police officers who could not stomach the perversion of politics and the exploitation of security forces to steal ballots. As head of the elite police unit Special Action Force (SAF), Magalong joined forces with Gen. Danny Lim of the Scout Rangers and Col. Ariel Querubin of the Marines in a popular movement to oust the highly detested President Arroyo then. Had they succeeded, they would have been hailed as heroes just like the RAM forces during the 1986 Edsa Peope Power Revolution. But, since they failed, Magalong was imprisoned and his military career was sidelined. It was a time when taking a stand against a rogue government — with a president who cheated in the elections (“Hello Garci”) in the same way that Ferdinand Marcos did — was not a crime of rebellion but a worthy cause for a revolution. Magalong risked everything by putting his life and career on the line.
During the second Aquino presidency, Magalong headed the investigation on the Mamasapano massacre, where 44 elite SAF troopers were killed while serving an arrest warrant against a high-value terrorist in Mindanao. Magalong showed no blind loyalty to his commander in chief who held the power to advance his career. He submitted an investigation report finding President Aquino culpable for allowing a suspended police chief to participate in the planning and execution of the botched police operation. It could have been easy for Magalong to temper the findings in order to clear the president from any liability, but he elected to tell the truth as it stared him in the eye. Magalong risked his entire career to stand up for the truth.
Now, under the current administration, Magalong finds himself again shaking the core foundation of yet another presidency. President Duterte has staked his legacy on a drug war implemented by the police force through buy-bust operations that almost always result in the killing of suspects. Thousands have been killed in the process.
In the ongoing Senate investigation, however, Magalong dropped bombshells. He revealed that Mr. Duterte’s chosen police chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, coddled a group of 13 police officers who recycled 160 kilos of confiscated shabu in 2013. Albayalde and the 13 officers instantaneously acquired new sports utility vehicles after the incident.
Magalong further revealed that Albayalde intervened to stop the dismissal from service of the rogue cops. Despite the death threats thrown his way, Magalong is once again risking his life and the lives of members of his family.
Magalong has exposed the hypocrisy of the government’s drug war. He’s fighting the real war on drugs.
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