INTERIOR Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. named on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, the four personalities who will form part of the five-man committee who will assess the courtesy resignation of police colonels and generals on the basis of their possible involvement in illegal drugs.

Included in the five-man committee were Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Rodolfo Azurin, former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. and retired Major General Isagani Nerez who are “known for their unquestionable integrity, credibility and untainted reputation.”

Abalos said the other member who will complete the committee refused to be named publicly.

He said Azurin will “stir” the committee to its direction as it aims to cleanse the police ranks amid the efforts to clear the country of illegal drugs.

“Iniscreen na siya at nag-usap kami ng Presidente tungkol dito and it is only but proper since obviously, hindi tinanggap ang kaniyang resignation. He is needed there to stir the committee. He’s in the position to give recent intelligence report, etc.,” said Abalos.

(He has been screened and the President and I talked about it and it is only but proper since obviously, his resignation was not accepted. He is needed there to stir the committee. He's in the position to give recent intelligence reports, etc.)

Magalong is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and has served the police organization for 38 years.

He led the investigation on the Mamasapano bloody encounter between Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and policemen that resulted in the killing of 44 Special Action Force troopers and Malaysian terrorist and bomb-expert, Zulkifli Bin Hir, one of the primary targets of the operation.

Magalong also took part in the Senate investigation on ninja-cops, or those policemen involved in the recycling of illegal drugs being recovered in the conduct of operations by selling it back on the streets in 2019.

Magalong fearlessly dropped names, including that of former PNP chief Oscar Albayalde, during the investigation.

This has resulted in Albayalde relinquishing his post more than three weeks before his mandatory retirement.

Charges were filed against Albayalde and other policemen over the issue of ninja-cops but it was later junked due to lack of evidence.

Teodoro is a civilian who served as secretary of the Department of National Defense under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He finished law at the University of the Philippines, topped the 1989 bar exams and obtained masters in law at Harvard University.

Teodoro served as the representative of the First District of Tarlac from 1998 to 2007.

Nerez is a member of PMA Maharlika Class of 1984.

He is also a lawyer who served in various capacities in the units of the Philippine National Police, such as the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response and the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations, Eastern Mindanao.

He was also part of the PNP Special Action Force, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, and the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.

In August 2022, Nerez was appointed as undersecretary for Police Affairs of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs (Opama).

“I am definite that this advisory group shall remain apolitical throughout the process of screening and in the end penalize only those guilty and involved in the illegal drugs trade,” said Abalos.

“Rest assured that the government is working continuously to gain renewed and better trust in the Philippine National Police of the public as our police remain committed to our mandate to serve and protect,” he added.

On January 4, Abalos appealed to all full-fledged police colonels and generals to submit a courtesy resignation as part of the government’s fight against illegal drugs.

He said that after months of studying the country’s problem on illegal drugs, it appears that there is a bigger trouble in the police organization, which is among the government agencies primarily involved in addressing the drug menace, as several high-ranking officials were involved in the illegal activity.

Out of the 955 police colonels and generals, he said 12 did not submit their courtesy resignation but only one is considered not compliant since the five were already retired while six are retiring soon.

Azurin said the reason for the lone official who refused to comply was “personal prerogative.”

But Abalos said the lone official who did not submit his courtesy resignation will still be investigated over possible involvement in illegal drugs but there will be no penalty for not complying.

The PNP chief earlier said there were up to 10 police officials allegedly involved in the drug trade.

Abalos said in the next three months, the committee will conduct an investigation on the police officials and will submit the names of those whose resignations are accepted to the National Police Commission for another round of verification before submitting their recommendation to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

He reiterated that monitoring, investigation and case build-up against other police personnel will continue amid the intensified internal cleansing in the police organization. (SunStar Philippines)