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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 14, 2019
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with Matè Espina

Black Saturday

Rock & Refuge

What should have been a memorable and fun affair to celebrate the birthday of Leo Rey Yanson, turned egregious when President Rodrigo Duterte dropped a bombshell, sacking five cops including Bacolod Police Chief, Sr. Supt. Francisco Ebreo, allegedly due to illegal drugs.

Duterte also linked Councilor Cano Tan as confirmed by regional police director, Chief Supt. John Bulalacao to media, although it was not clear whether as protector or being directly involved in illegal drugs.

It is of course unlikely for this leader to act with decorum and respect the occasion, but appalling is too kind to describe his latest antics. The fact that Ebreo was present in the same party but was fortunately outside when the name-shaming came, as a source told me, made it so tasteless.

Also ordered sacked are Supt. Ritchie Yatar, Supt. Nassruddin Tayuan, Supt. Allan Macapagal, and Sr. Inspector Victor Paulino.

I have fleeting knowledge about these officers except from the news but it is ironic now that they are being sacked when just last year, some of them, including Col. Ebreo, have been recognized by the PNP for their fight against illegal drugs.

In fact, Paulino received the Medalya nang Kagalingan and the Medalya ng Sugatang Magiting when he was wounded in a drug operation that led to the death of alleged drug lord, Ramy Poja, in Banago last May.

I can imagine the demoralization among the police ranks with this latest news because it just sends a signal that no matter what you do on the job, when you earn the president’s ire, any accomplishment you have in the past just goes down the drain.

I will not be presumptuous and claim that these officers are not guilty as charged, but there is a proper forum and process to follow in relieving them from their posts and not in a private affair.And if indeed there is a drug profiling file against them, why were they not investigated early on?

Cano Tan gets a double whammy. He was already ambushed and with his case still unresolved, he has been shamed some more.

Of course you cannot sack Cano since he is an elected official and even topped the race for councilor in the last election. He has taken a leave of absence following the ambush, but with this new development, I just wish Cano will extend his leave and flee this country for a while with his family.

They say fleeing is commensurate to guilt, but the fact that we have seen elected officials tagged in illegal drugs falling left and right without any justice, will you still take a chance?

I’ve met Col. Ebreo first time during the Metro Inn stand-off and, though fleetingly, he seemed likeable enough and was very accommodating.

Strangely too, some of the men who were sacked were also involved in that stand-off with one even perceived to be always tagging behind one in the aggrieved party and also rumoured to be involved in another recent incident.

A big BUT though is that the same aggrieved party has always dropped the president’s name as a close friend. Methinks now that it’s probably the contrary or something else is in the works.

This is becoming mind-boggling and I just hope our local officials, including the police hierarchy, will disclose to the public if there is some truth to all these.

These accused have families who are probably fearful right now about what will happen next, not to mention the shame it will cause them too.

It is a “sensitive” issue as some of our local officials said, and they’d rather clam up than speak about it. It is understandable, of course, lest you want to be dragged down with these men, and so woe to us all.

Last Saturday, I was on my way to the airport and was bothered by the motorcycles lining up along the airport circumferential road. Soon enough, the reason came to light as there were four checkpoints I passed and was impressed that finally, some order is being done in that dark stretch where a lot of crimes have happened amidst a line of lampposts that are there as mere decoration.

At the airport, there were many law enforcers and I learned of the president’s arrival. Returning, the checkpoints disappeared making one think they were just there for show, but I hope not.

In the past, we always welcome the arrival of any president as it brings good tidings to our province. But apparently it ain’t so with this one. This news, not the party, will become the talk of the town.

I never thought that Saturday would turn this black.*

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