MOMENT OF TRUTH. Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. (3rd from left) holds a press briefing together with officials of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) at the DILG main office in Quezon City on Monday (May 8, 2023). Abalos said the advisory group that screened ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against four senior police officials for their alleged links to illegal drugs. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – The advisory group that screened ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against four senior police officials for their alleged links to illegal drugs, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said Monday.

In a press briefing at the Department of the Interior and Local Government office in Quezon City, Abalos also said the advisory body has recommended the non-acceptance of the courtesy resignations of 917 officers and further investigation on 32 other officers.

He also noted that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. already declared that he is accepting the courtesy resignation of two generals.

Meanwhile, he said the National Police Commission (Napolcom) has issued a resolution to proceed with the pre-charge investigation against the two colonels.

"The Napolcom will recommend to the President that he should accept these colonels' courtesy resignations as well, without prejudice to their administrative liability," he added.

These measures, Abalos said, were based on the recommendations of the advisory body that looked into the involvement of PNP third level officers -- from colonels to generals in the illegal drug trade.

Abalos said that the administrative cases against these officials, particularly over grave misconduct and grave neglect of duty will be handled by the Napolcom since the PNP is directly under its supervision and control.

Napolcom Memorandum Circular 2016-002 provides that it shall have primary jurisdiction over grave administrative cases.

“For clarity, acceptance of resignation is without prejudice to any administrative cases against these officers, and will not release them from any liability,” Abalos said.

The members of the advisory body are retired police general and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Undersecretary Isagani Nerez, former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and retired Court of Appeals Justice Melchor Sadang and retired PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr.

He said that on April 24, Azurin filed a complaint affidavit with the Napolcom against two generals, for grave misconduct and grave neglect of duty, among others.

The penalty for these offenses is dismissal, forfeiture of benefits, and perpetual disqualification from any public office.

Abalos said they will name the said officials after about two to three weeks after the conduct of the pre-charge investigation and once administrative charges are filed against them already.

On their possible criminal liability, the Interior Secretary said it will be handled by the Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO).

For his part, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said that the four senior officials were facing pre-charges, as of now, they are not holding key positions in PNP.

“On the part of the PNP nag-usap usap din kami (we also talked) and in my consultation with other ranks, I do believe that this move yung conduct of investigation will somehow answer all the questions about the gray areas doon sa nangyari and whatever will be the result, we will welcome it and it's all part, a bitter truth but it's all part of internal cleansing and I do believe after all these things, we will come up with a better police force,” said Acorda in the same briefing.

Acorda also said policemen will undergo "proper vetting" before they will be assigned to police units involved in the continuing war against illegal drugs.

Acorda made the pronouncement amid recent findings about the involvement of some personnel of the PDEG in illegal drugs.

More than 40 personnel of the PDEG were disarmed, ordered restricted and are now under investigation over allegations of drug protection racket, pilferage and recycling of confiscated illegal drugs.

“The anti-illegal drug campaign shall be done by ensuring proper vetting of PDEG and Drug Enforcement Unit personnel to make sure that only those who have successfully undergone an honest vetting process will be assigned with anti-illegal drug units,” Acorda said.

The strengthened conduct of vetting process of personnel who will be assigned with PDEG was actually one of the recommendations made the PNP SITG 990. It proposed the vetting be done by the PNP Intelligence Group and the Integrity Monitoring and Enforcement Group.

Acorda, who used to be the head of the PNP’s Directorate for Intelligence, wants to maximize all the information that must be obtained in ensuring that anti-narcotics personnel of the PNP are all clean.

He said the vetting process will be done from the PDEG down to the station level of drug enforcement units.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the move is also aimed at ensuring that those who have a derogatory record will not be returned to the PDEG or any PNP anti-illegal drugs unit -- the issue behind dismissed Police Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo.

Mayo, who was tagged in the 990 kilos of shabu seized in Manila last year, was already deployed to Mindanao as punishment for alleged involvement in illegal drugs in 2016 but later returned as PDEG intelligence officer for Metro Manila.

“The background investigation will further be intensified and field commanders were the ones tasked to conduct it and all their findings were tasked to be written so that if there would be problems later on, we would hold them accountable,” said Fajardo.

Fajardo said there is also an ongoing review of the existing policies in the conduct of background investigation.

Last week, a member of a five-man advisory group said the body has recommended filing of administrative charges against two generals and two colonels allegedly involved in the drugs trade. It also recommended the acceptance of their courtesy resignations.

The advisory group was formed to process the courtesy resignation of more than 900 generals and colonels in January. They submitted their courtesy resignations in response to the call of Interior Secretary Abalos as part of the effort to cleanse the PNP of senior officers involved in illegal drugs

About three weeks ago, the PNP's Special Investigation Group 990 recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against erstwhile PDEG chief Brig. Gen. Narcisco Domingo and 48 other PDEG personnel involved in the controversial seizure of 990 kilos of shabu, worth PHP6.7 billion, in Manila in October last year. (PNA)