OVER the last weekend, Bacolod City suffered a great disservice to its people and, most importantly, to efforts at keeping at a safe city in the face of the seeming spike in violence we have seen since the past year.

The blow was struck by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

And sadly, though not surprisingly, none of our feckless city leaders let out so much as a squeak of protest. Worse, one even had the gall to practically gloat -- after the fact -- that this was a wish come true for him.

Yes, I am referring to the summary relief and dismissal of former city police director Francis Ebreo and four other officers as well as the accusation against Councilor Ricardo “Cano” Tan over supposed drug links that Duterte announced at a private birthday party.

I have never met Ebreo or any of the officers, nor do I know anything about what they are accused of. I do know Tan and have heard of such talk now and again -- usually when elections come around -- but know that he has never been charged for what he is supposed to have done.

And there’s the rub. Duterte offered no proof -- nor has he since -- neither against Ebreo and the other officers nor of Tan, which is exactly what he has done with practically each and every accusation he has raised against most everyone, including the thousands upon thousands who have been executed sans due process in his accursed “war on drugs.”

Duterte, of course, has amply demonstrated how much respect he has for the rule of law -- as much as he has for human rights and for practically all norms of civilized behavior, come to think of it.

That is why, even after both the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said neither Ebreo nor Tan were on their drug watch lists, Duterte continued to stick to his guns, insisting that, “at the very least (Ebreo is) a drug protector” and citing as proof the “very strange behavior” of the police officers by visiting the councilor at a hospital after he and his wife survived being ambushed by gunmen on December 14.

“What's your f*** business going to an ambushed drug lord at the hospital?” Duterte was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star after he met the sacked officials in Malacañang on Monday, January 14.

Ummmm... maybe because Tan simply happens to be an elected official of the city, the number one councilor, no less? Surely, should Duterte find himself in similar straits, it would behoove the heads of the state’s security services to rush to his side?

Come to think of it, wouldn’t the ambush on Tan been a more credible reason to relieve Ebreo? Or does Duterte -- again -- know something no one else knows?

This is not a brief for anyone but even an idiot in the intricacies of the law -- me for example -- knows well enough that such serious accusations are rightly addressed by investigating and filing charges in court and, if found guilty, lengthy incarceration, not by shooting one’s mouth off in public, especially NOT if you happen to be the most powerful person in the land, one whose words carry the weight of policy.

The sad thing is, even subordinates who are supposed to not only know this but uphold it, like Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde, turn into wimps and kowtow to this brazen abuse of authority with the flimsy excuse that, because he is the President, Duterte must have better information than any of his security agencies combined.

I really doubt that even a President is exempt from adherence to the rules of evidence, even if a chief executive’s words do carry the weight of the office.

The silence of city leaders -- I have yet to hear any member of the city council attempt to defend their colleague Tan or any of the police officers, although I did read a report quoting Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran did acknowledge a reduction in crime during Ebreo’s stint -- should be a cause of deep concern for Bacolodnons, especially if reports are true that the real reason behind Duterte’s action is his usual penchant for handing out goodies to his factotums. I guess that is as much protection as we city folk can expect from them when we need it.

What I do find disquieting is how the putative father of the city, Mayor Evelio Leonardia, chimed in on the issue and admitted that he had, in fact, been long seeking Ebreo’s replacement not because the officer was remiss in keeping peace and order in Bacolod but because -- horrors! -- he failed to report supposed meetings with Tan and Abang Lingkod Representative Stephen Paduano to the chief city executive.

Now I am no fan of Paduano’s -- anyone who knows me will attest to that -- and I have no interest at all in what to me has been the overwhelming pettiness of our local politics.

But this take politics and self-entitlement to a new low. Do we now have a mini-me of Duterte running the city? Since when has personal loyalty become a qualification for city police director?


Ladies and gentlemen of Bacolod, this would be the perfect time to either start weeping for our city or cast a broader net for people who can truly look out for our collective interests.