Cops who opt for early retirement not off the hook just yet

MalacaAang on Thursday said police officers in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug watchlist are not exempted from prosecution despite their intention to avail of early retirement.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this comment amid concerns that Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Archie Gamboa's optional retirement offer for errant cops would get them off the hook.

Giving them retirement option doesn't mean they will not be prosecuted if there is evidence that they've been involved [in the illegal drug trade], Panelo said in a Palace briefing. Getting rid of them through retirement doesn't preclude the filing of criminal prosecution.

Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said opting to retire early could only be an admission of guilt on the part of scalawag police personnel.

By getting that retirement, you're admitting you're involved kasi precisely 'yun ang purpose e. Pag nag retire ka ibig sabihin kasama ka dun (because that's precisely the purpose. If you retire, it means you're included there), he said.

He said he saw nothing wrong with Gamboa's early retirement offer, reiterating that errant cops will still have to face the court.

This is an educated guess. Kasi kung hindi niya gagawin 'yun, (Because if he won't do it) you have to file cases and it will take a long, long process. Siguro para mabilis, ino offer an niya ng (Perhaps to speed things up, he offers them) optional retirement, Panelo said.

Asked if Duterte would be open to releasing the names of errant cops in the drug watchlist just like he did with politicians linked to the illegal drug trade, Panelo said he would still have to ask him.

Last year, Duterte ordered the release of the list of politicians linked to illegal drug activities ahead of the campaign period for local bets

Gamboa earlier gave rogue cops the option to avail of early retirement if they wanted to avoid embarrassing themselves or if they considered themselves guilty.

At least 15 out of 357 policemen in Duterte's drug watchlist have availed of the early retirement option, Gamboa said.

Aside from the 15 cops, Gamboa said 43 cops on the list have been marked absent without official leave (AWOL) after ignoring his summons for a meeting and subsequent drug test.

Gamboa stood firm on his decision not to reveal the names of 357 policemen because there are prejudices that might be developed by people.

Respect our request. I appealed to you that don't look at the personalities in the watchlist, he said in a media interview at Camp Crame on Thursday.

He made the remarks following reports that the name of Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, former deputy for operations and drug enforcement unit chief of the Bacolod City Police Office, is allegedly included in the drug watchlist.

Any public announcement on the watchlist, Gamboa said, could preempt the decision of the President if these cops are proven to be involved in illegal drugs.

Duterte is yet to comment on Espenido's alleged inclusion on the narco list.

The mandatory age of retirement for the PNP is 56, but cops can avail of early retirement as approved by the National Police Commission.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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