DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte's choice for police chief said the president-elect's campaign promise of suppressing crime and drugs in 3 to 6 months is "attainable."
"Oo, attainable 'yan; kaya 'yan. Hindi kaya kung hindi tayo kikilos at ang komunidad hindi tutulong," said incoming Philippine National Police chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday, May 31. (READ: Duterte's 'Bato': Who is Ronald Dela Rosa?)
(Yes, it's attainable; it's doable. It won't be doable if we don't act and if the community doesn't help.)
He said he would order the police to "apply the full force of the law" against criminals, especially against "drug personalities" – drug users, drug pushers, drug couriers, and druglords.
Dela Rosa has become famous in Davao City for implementing Oplan TukHang (Tuktok-Hangyo) in which city police would go door-to-door, knocking on the homes of known drug dealers and users to ask them to reform.
He is considering implementing this on a national scale.
"Magpapatawag kaagad ako ng command conference and then bigay ko ang detalye, 'yung memorandum circular about TukHang (I will immediately call a command conference and I will give the details of the memorandum circular about Oplan TukHang)," he said.
Another way he explained his anti-drug and crime operation was, "Upakan lahat ng druglord, lahat ng criminal (Let's beat up the druglords and criminals)."
Dela Rosa also said he is eyeing a revamp of the entire police force, knowing there are some officers involved with drug syndicates.
"Tanggalin natin, reshuffle natin. Siguraduhin natin na 'yung ilalagay natin bukod na magaling na opisyal, mga palaban, hindi matatakot lumaban (Let's remove them or reshuffle them. Let's make sure the ones we put in are not only excellent officials but those who are fighters and are not afraid to fight back)," he told media.
He said the revamp would likely affect regional directors first and then cascade to lower officials. (READ: Dissecting and weighing Duterte's anti-crime strategy)
'Public has nothing to fear'
But though the police will be harsh against criminals, Dela Rosa gave his assurance that "the public has nothing to fear" from the police under a Duterte administration.
"I will assure the public that kami ay mga pulis, hindi kami kriminal, susunod kami sa police operational procedure (I will assure the public that we are police, we are not criminals, we will follow police operational procedure)," he said.
The police, he said, are also subject to the justice system and may face charges filed by private citizens if they are abusive.
During the campaign trail, Duterte said he would not hesitate to grant pardon to convicted law enforcers if they committed crimes in the line of duty.
Duterte also claimed he would be the first to punish abusive law enforcers.
Dela Rosa, who has served as Davao City police chief, also denied accusations that the police, during his time, were working with death squads to rid the city of petty criminals.
"As far as I know, wala akong death squad. During my time, legitimate operations ang ginagawa ko. Napapatay namin 'yung kalaban through legitimate operations," he said.
(As far as I know, I don't have a death squad. During my time, I conducted legitimate operations. The criminals we killed fought against police during legitimate operations.)
Asked if he ever arrested vigilantes, he said, "Hate na hate ko 'yung mga ganyan. Ayaw na ayaw ko yung mga extrajudicial killings (I really hate those [groups]. I am really against extrajudicial killings). – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.