Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Ronald and Nancy at the White House

LATE-BREAKER: While the Philippines is no longer the “Sick man of Asia,” in fact some consider us the “Rising tiger of Asia,” we run the risk of soon becoming the “Somalia of Asia.” Indonesia has just banned Indonesian vessels from sailing to the Philippines after seven Indonesian sailors were kidnapped from their ships sailing in the Sulu Sea. It was the third such kidnapping in recent months.

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During the past week, not a day went by without the media reporting the killing of a suspected drug lord or pusher. From June 16 to June 20, PNP (Philippine National Police) data showed that 25 drug suspects were killed nationwide. This comes up to five killings a day. In Quezon City alone, police reported that last Friday 738 drug users and pushers surrendered voluntarily at Camp Karingal.

Holy cow! The statistics are stunning and scary. They indicate that for the past few years, over 700 drug addicts (maybe even more) have been roaming around freely in the streets of my city, all of them potential robbers, killers and rapists with some on the payroll of policemen.

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If Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Jojo Binay or Miriam Santiago had been elected president last month, do you think these 700 or more drug users would have surrendered to the authorities before or even after inauguration time? The simple truth and the lesson to be learned is that fear, more than respect for the law, is the greater motivator for many people. In his characteristically blunt style, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has struck fear into the hearts of drug lords and pushers. And the police, obviously trying to curry favor with the incoming administration, are running after drug suspects or calling on them to surrender. This is something they should have been doing conscientiously and vigorously in the past, even without prodding from the chief executive.

The incoming chief executioner or the “Punisher,” is Chief Supt. Ronald dela Rosa, a mild-mannered family man, father of two girls and a boy. He is a product of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.

Let me devote a few lines to the Class of 1986.

This is the class that graduated just after the Edsa I revolution. During the turbulent weeks and days prior to the revolt, the cadets had already taken a stand on the looming crisis. They were prepared to join the rebel forces if the situation called for their active participation. They may not have been physically present at Edsa, but their hearts were in the right place.

Cadet Gilbert Gapay of Tarlac was the class valedictorian. He is now a brigadier general commanding an Army brigade. The first captain, or baron, was Rozzano Briguez of Cebu, now also a brigadier general serving as chief of Air Staff at Villamor Air Base. At that time, since I was head of the Philippine Air Force, I presented him with the Philippine Air Force Award, which is given to the highest-ranking cadet joining the Air Force. Cadet Francisco Baraquel of Naga City, the Journalism awardee of the class, is the husband of senator-elect Risa Hontiveros. Baraquel passed away some years ago.

Now we have Chief Superintendent Dela Rosa, a one-star police general who graduated No. 22 out of 174 in the class. Dela Rosa will soon be taking over as PNP chief, and in doing so he will be jumping over the heads of Classes 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, plus some members of his own class. In this respect, he is the beneficiary of a process known as “deep selection.” As the term implies, it involves going deep into the ranks of qualified officers in the search for new leadership. It does not happen very often.

During President Cory Aquino’s administration, she picked Army Gen. Lisandro Abadia, Class of 1962, to serve as AFP chief of staff, jumping him over Classes 1959, 1960 and 1961. President Fidel Ramos in his time, chose Gen. Recaredo Sarmiento, Class of 1966, to be the PNP chief, bypassing Classes 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965. Deep selection is a presidential prerogative and its exercise has never been questioned in a court of law. Heated protests and grumbling can sometimes result from such action.

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Dela Rosa’s parents struggled through life to raise the family. His father, now deceased, was a tricycle driver in a small town in Davao del Sur. To bring in more income, his mother worked part-time as a fish vendor. While Dela Rosa was able to finish high school, the family’s difficult financial position prevented him from furthering his education until his application for a scholarship at Mindanao State University in Marawi City was approved. In 1982, he passed the entrance exams for the PMA. Four years later, he joined the Philippine Constabulary (PC), forerunner of today’s PNP. His choice of branch of service was the Navy, specifically the Marine Corps. But in the lottery that was used to determine the military service of a graduate, he ended up with the PC.

After graduation he took up Scout Ranger training and it was here that his muscular frame developed. His superiors baptized him “Bato,” a monicker that has stuck through the years. His first assignment was as a junior officer in the Davao City police force. This was his initial encounter with then Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Most of his career was spent in operations against criminal elements in Region XI, the Davao provinces and Compostela Valley. Since the chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council was Duterte, their friendship grew stronger. For one thing, he had a reputation as a no-nonsense officer who got things done, and this is what impressed Mayor Duterte. It is therefore no surprise that his name was the first, if not the only name, on Duterte’s shortlist for the position of PNP chief.

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When Dela Rosa married his wife Nancy in Davao City in 1989, they moved into one of the low-cost housing units built by the National Housing Authority for government employees. The house was turned over to the newlywed couple, unpainted and unfurnished. So, Dela Rosa, who was then a police lieutenant, took it upon himself to do the painting and chose white as the color of their new home. They dubbed their humble abode the “White House.” At that time, Ronald and Nancy Reagan had just vacated their White House in Washington, DC, after two terms in office.

Sometime next month, Chief Supt. Ronald dela Rosa and Nancy will move into the official residence of the PNP chief at Camp Crame, which is known to all as the “White House.” The residential upgrade comes after 28 years in the service. Aside from getting an official home, Dela Rosa will soon be sporting the four stars of a director general in the PNP, the official rank of the nation’s top policeman, courtesy of his ninong in marriage, President Rodrigo Duterte.

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TAGS: Bato, Duterte, opinion, PNP, Police, Rodrigo Duterte, Ronald dela Rosa
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