Killers of rogue cops on the loose?

ARE motorcycle-riding vigilantes or a syndicate’s hitmen killing rogue policemen who have been linked to illegal drugs?

The suspicion arose amid the assassination of dozens of police officers and men who have been accused of either being drug protectors or involved in illegal drug trafficking by riding-in-tandem criminals since the start of the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

Latest to be killed was Police Senior Master Sergeant (PSMS) Solomon Cugay who was assassinated by two motorcycle-riding gunmen on EDSA near Connecticut Street in Greenhills, San Juan City around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Witnesses said that two men on motorbikes tailed Cugay and shot him without any provocation. The incident snarled traffic in the area and even prompted Eastern Police District director Police Brigadier General Christopher E. Tambungan to hail a motorcycle to reach the scene and lead the investigation into the killing.

Last week, a masked gunman shot dead PSMS Francis Villaflor at the lobby of the Danao City Court in Cebu. The cop whom sources said is included in the government’s list of policemen in drugs suffered gunshot wounds in the shoulder and head and died on the spot.

PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday said that Cugay was previously on the drugs watch list of President Duterte.   “Nasa PRRD list siya before. But then again ‘yung motive sa pagkakabaril sa kanya, wala pang maliwanag doon. It’s still being investigated,” the country’s top cop said of the case of Cugay who was killed a stone’s throw away from Camp Crame.

Already assigned to the National Capital Region Police Office’s Regional Doctrine Development Division, Cugay used to be assigned with the NCRPO’s Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Unit in 2015, NCRPO chief Major General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said.

According to Gen. Albayalde, Cugay was suspected of involvement in illicit drug activities including “recycling” of confiscated drug during the previous Aquino administration but was already cleared of the accusations and was not even among those tagged as “ninja cops” in the NCRPO.

The PNP chief said that the NCRPO counter-intelligence division did not monitor the slain cop engaging in any illicit activities since 2017 although investigators are looking into his background in drugs as a possible motive behind his murder.

“Baka meron siyang nasagasaan or baka meron siyang naging competitor before,” Gen. Albayalde said as he called on the public to wait for the result of the investigation being conducted by the EPD and the San Juan City Police Station.

Cugay and Villaflor are among the dozens of policemen previously assigned in anti-narcotics units in Metro Manila and other parts of the country who were assassi-nated after they were transferred to other units.

Many of them were former members of different NCRPO Regional, City and Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Group who were included in the government watch list of rogues in uniform and were transferred either to Mindanao and the Visayas region.

A number of them have survived attacks by unidentified assassins over the past two years.

Journal Group sources said that the “usual suspects” are drug syndicates who used to enjoy protection from the concerned policemen for a huge monthly fee or those who were arrested and charged in court even though they had paid large sums of money to their arresting officers.

A number of the policemen killed were previously known for their involvement in major anti-drug raids in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao which were widely covered by the media. However, their image was tarnished by accusations that they also figured in so-called bangketa/hulidap operations and the “recycling” of multi-kilos of confiscated shabu which they resold back to the streets with the help of their contacts from drug rings under their protection, mostly arrested street-level drug dealers.

However, their case is very much different from that of suspected “ninja cops” who have been killed in gunbattles with undercover officers during actual buy-bust operations. Many of these rogue officers died in shootouts with the police in Mindanao, Luzon and Visayas and even prompted President Duterte in 2018 to say that he would give a P5 million reward to every good policeman who will kill a “ninja cop” in shootouts.