Tinapon sa Mindanao! Reassignment becomes blessing in disguise for Ninja Cops
By Nancy Carvajal for Politiko
(Second of three parts)
The Ninja Cops date back to the 1990s, with its original members belonging to the elite PNP group Police Assistance and Reaction Against Crime (PARAC) created by the late Senator Robert Barbers.
According to the police investigation report on the Ninja Cops, Barbers was forced to disband the Metro Manila-based PARAC due to “negative reports” about the group.
But PARAC’s dissolution didn’t mean the end of Ninja Cops. Documents from the PNP showed then-PNP chief Panfilo Lacson ordered PARAC members deployed to Mindanao sometime in 1997.
Politiko’s source, however, could not say if the deployment was prompted by rumors of the PARAC members being “kotong” cops or their alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade.
Then-President Joseph Estrada’s ouster in 2001 proved to be a blessing for the Ninja Cops, as the PARAC members’ Personal Data Sheets (PDS) showed they managed to be reassigned to Metro Manila afterwards.
“They (Ninja Cops) members always managed to end up in the same unit through the efforts of their handlers and protectors, who are highly-placed officials,” an investigator observed.
The investigator said the Ninja Cops’ ascent to power showed why it’s counter-productive to reassign erring policemen to Mindanao.
Under the PNP’s punishment system, policemen accused of wrongdoing are not automatically suspended. Instead, they are reassigned to other police stations.
“Reassignment only gives erring cops the opportunity to recruit and widen their network. Eventually, they are able to return to Metro Manila when the police leadership changes,” the investigator said.
Top to bottom recruitment
The Ninja Cops not only survived changes in police and government leadership, they also thrived. According to the investigation report, the gang recruited police generals, colonel, majors, captains and other low -ranking operatives such as patrolmen and sergeants.
Recruiting senior officials was necessary to protect the careers of gang members. In exchange for their complicity, the ranking PNP officials received dividends from the resale of pilfered illegal drugs.
“Sila ang taga-tawid ng mga nakasuhang member while doing the work for the syndicate,” Politiko’s source said.
A police general said the Ninja Cops could not have been successful without the support of high-ranking police officials.
`”It’s either they turn a blind eye because they are well-connected or they act as the Ninja Cops’ protectors in exchange for their share of the loot,’’ the general said.
A narcotics agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Ninja Cops members will try every known trick to bail their members out once caught.
“I remember a police inspector coming to our office to ask for the release and dropping of charges against a colleague who we arrested in a buy bust operation, claiming the cop was operating undercover, ’’ the NBI agent said.