Presumptuous, self-serving idea | Inquirer Opinion

Presumptuous, self-serving idea

/ 04:30 AM May 30, 2023

Senators Christopher “Bong’’ Go and Ronald “Bato’’ dela Rosa last week floated the idea of making their benefactor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, the anti-drug czar of the Marcos administration supposedly to boost its campaign against illegal drugs.

“It is the prerogative of the President as the appointing authority. But if ever [it happens], will it help if former president Duterte will be appointed as drug czar?” Go asked the newly appointed Philippine National Police chief Maj. Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. during a recent Senate committee hearing.

Dela Rosa chimed in when reporters asked him about the idea: “For me, personally, that would be good. It will instill fear in drug syndicates, particularly police officers involved in drugs or so-called ninja cops.’’


The two senators could not be faulted for looking after Duterte; after all, both have served him since his days as mayor of Davao City and owe him their lofty positions. Go, then Mayor Duterte’s longtime assistant, served as his special assistant in Malacañang, while Dela Rosa was Duterte’s police chief.


But what appeared to be two senators innocently thinking aloud is presumptuous in many ways. First, it disrespects the incumbent President’s prerogative to appoint trusted officials who will help him implement his policies and serve as his alter ego. While Mr. Marcos stated, shortly before his assumption to office, that he was “open” to having the older Duterte in his Cabinet, there is no obligation on the part of any president to appoint his or her predecessor, who should normally retire from politics and fade into the background as some of our former chief executives have correctly done.

To openly push, in the guise of a question, to the PNP chief no less and in a formal Senate hearing at that, for Duterte to take over as anti-drug czar is also a disrespect to the PNP. It suggests that the anti-drug war of the Marcos administration, which the PNP should ideally implement, will be a failure without Duterte to save it. Dela Rosa using fear (“babalik ‘yung takot”) to keep in line drug syndicates and rogue cops involved in illegal drugs is pushing the wrong notion that bloody and ruthless is the only way to go, never mind due process.

Recall that even during Duterte’s term and well into the new administration, drug busts and seizures of illegal drugs worth millions or billions of pesos continued, with police officers found involved in the trade. Even Duterte himself, a few months before his term ended in June 2022, admitted that he had failed to fulfill his vow to end the illegal drug menace (first in six months, then another six months), and attributed this promise to “hubris” and bluster in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign. That bluster resulted in a horrendous death toll — 6,252 people killed according to official records, but which independent groups put at 30,000.

Perhaps the two senators also did not hear (or chose to ignore) Mr. Marcos acknowledging to the world that because the Duterte drug war focused on enforcement and the pursuit of small-time drug users, “it could be said that there were abuses by certain elements in the government that [have] caused some concern about the human rights situation.’’

Mr. Marcos further told a forum in Washington during his official visit to the United States on May 4, that drug syndicates in the country grew “stronger, wealthier, and more influential,” and that illegal drugs continued to be “the source of many, much criminality in the Philippines.” One could not have a more brutally honest assessment of Duterte’s handling of the drug war.

The Go-Dela Rosa trial balloon is also disrespecting Mr. Marcos’ stated policy of adopting a different approach to illegal drugs that would focus on prevention and the rehabilitation of drug users, after he noted that his predecessor’s policy “only gets you so far.”


Finally, the preposterous idea of these Duterte senators will put the Marcos administration in an even more difficult situation with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is determined to investigate the extrajudicial killings under the Duterte drug war as crimes against humanity.

Though Mr. Marcos had refused to cooperate with The Hague-based tribunal, his government—through the solicitor general—is still engaged in the process and filing appeals to discontinue the investigation.

Unless they’re dense, insensitive to the issue, or blindly loyal to their patron, Go and Dela Rosa should know what message Duterte’s appointment as Marcos’ anti-drug czar will send to the ICC. Dela Rosa certainly knows it because as lead implementor of “Oplan Tokhang” when he was PNP chief, he could be among those to be investigated by the ICC along with Duterte, and should be the last person to advance such a transparently self-serving proposal.

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Resurrecting Duterte as the Marcos administration’s anti-drug czar will be inconsistent with the President’s official policy and will be a hurdle in his quest to reestablish the country’s good standing with the international community. It is an inherently bad idea. Perish the thought!

TAGS: Christopher Go, drug war, Editorial, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Philippine National Police, Rodrigo Duterte, Ronald dela Rosa

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