PHILIPPINE National Police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa yesterday summoned to Camp Crame 357 PNP officers and men he ordered relieved from their present posts and transferred to the Office of the Chief,PNP for their alleged links to illegal drugs and gave them the option to face a thorough investigation or go on optional retirement.
The 357 include at least two star-rank officers, at least 10 police full-fledged Colonels, 27 Lieutenant Colonels, 27 Majors, 4 Lieutenants and the rest are Police Non-Commissioned Officers with the ranks of Police Executive Master Sergeants, Chief Master Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, Corporals and Patrolman.
Gen. Gamboa said that while assigned to his office, the 357 will be subjected to a daily accounting while being evaluated. The Journal Group withheld the names of the 357 upon request and to give them the chance to prove their innocence without fully embarrassing them and their families.
The majority are assigned at the National Capital Region Police Office while the rest are from the Cordillera Police Regional Office, Bangsamoro Administrative Region Police Regional Office, Police Regional Office 4-A, PRO1 in Ilocos-Pangasinan region, PRO2 in Cagayan Valley, PRO13 in Caraga region, PRO11 in Southern Mindanao, PRO8 in Eastern Visayas and PRO10 in Northern Mindanao.
Many of these police officers and men were identified as so-called ninja cops who gained notoriety for their involvement in ‘bangketa/hulidap’ operations and ‘recycling’ of confiscated drug evidence before and during the early part of the Duterte administration.
It was President Duterte who ordered a massive counter-intelligence operation to identify, arrest and prosecute the accused, some of whom were reported to have received protection money from suspected drugs lords or directly benefitted from the illegal drug trade.
“I have ordered the administrative relief of a total of 357 PNP officers and men included in the National Watchlist on Illegal Drugs and they will undergo a thorough validation,” Gen. Gamboa told the Journal Group during a visit at the office of the Journal Group of Publications in Port Area, Manila.
The names of the 357 are on the watch list of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs and the drug list of President Duterte.
Gen. Gamboa said President Duterte gave him the clearance to relieve the 357 and subject them to a thorough validation during a joint PNP-Armed Forces command conference in Malacañang Palace on Thursday night.
He added that he sought the approval of the Commander-in-Chief to take full action on the case of the 357 policemen by subjecting them to a thorough validation process in a month.
“Your proposal is approved,” he quoted President Duterte as saying in reaction to his request.
Gen. Gamboa said they have the mechanism to evaluate the individual reports against the 357 “so finally we can say if they should remain in the list or be removed from it.”
“If they are innocent, it’s ok but they themselves know the truth about the charges against them. Thus, I’m offering those who have already been with the police force for the past 20 years or more the chance to file for optional retirement where they can still receive part of their pay and other benefits,” he told the Journal Group.
The PNP chief said the 357 will be given the chance to clear themselves.
“We will make the final recommendation in a month’s time after a thorough adjudication process. I hope everything will turn out right. This is a chance for them to be cleared. There should be closure here already,” he said.
The 357 were asked to report to the PNP Multi-Purpose Center in Camp Crame at 2 p.m. yesterday for a closed-door meeting with the PNP chief.