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Had not President Rodrigo Duterte intervened, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa would have been retired already from the police service. Dela Rosa, a graduate of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1986, reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 on Jan. 21, 2018.

Long before his scheduled retirement, President Duterte publicly disclosed he plans to tap Dela Rosa to head the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) once the latter retires from the police service.

In December last year, or a month before he was supposed to change into civilian clothes, President Duterte announced, however, he has decided to extend the tour of duty of his flamboyant PNP Director General for three months. Effectively, the President extended Dela Rosa to remain as his top cop until April 21, 2018 to handle “unfinished tasks.”

Apparently, however, Dela Rosa still failed to meet whatever “unfinished tasks” the President wanted him to deliver when he first extended the tour of duty of the out-going PNP chief. So on Feb. 21, the Commander-in-chief extended anew Dela Rosa’s term.

“The police has always been a problem…There are scoundrels, scalawags in every organization. That is why the PNP (chief) now who is supposed to retire on the 21st of April, and because he enjoys my trust and confidence, I will extend his term for a little bit longer,” the President told a gathering at Malacañang Palace.

Being the brains and brawns behind Duterte’s war against illegal drugs dubbed Oplan Tokhang, the President expressed his desire for his PNP chief to stay on his post until further notice. But aside from tour of duty extension, the PNP chief got another concession from his Commander-in-chief who gladly granted his wish.

During his “meet the press” with us at Malacañang last week, President Duterte disclosed he has acceded to the request of Dela Rosa to exempt the PNP from his earlier decision to scrap the procurement of Bell429 helicopters from Canada.

From google.com, Bell429 GlobalRanger is described as a light, twin-engine helicopter, with a unit cost of $7.5 million. It is capable of operating with one engine inoperative. Equipped with glass cockpits, with a flat floor for patient loading, it also has a set of four rear clamshell doors under the tail boom for easier patient loading.

“Bato was telling me he got his Bell chopper 429 and started using it already in his provincial trips to the PNP regional offices,” the President told us.

“Hambugero yan si Bato eh,” President Duterte quipped and chortled at his own description of the high-profile ways of his PNP chief.

Loosely translated, hambugero means egotist, a braggart, a boastful person.

Before our “meet the press” with him that Tuesday night, the President met with the top brass of the police led by Dela Rosa and the military in a command conference at the Palace. With Canada out, President Duterte disclosed the Philippines would be tapping another country to supply the Philippines with the needed choppers and other military hardware. He refused to identify it until both sides finalize the deal.

This was after the Canadian government ordered a review of the deal amid concerns the aircraft could be used to fight rebels just days after signing a $233-million agreement on Feb. 8 to sell 16 helicopters to the Philippines. The chopper deal was struck in 2012 supposedly on the understanding the helicopters would be used for search-and-rescue missions.

Ottawa announced the deal was under review due to concerns over the human rights record of President Duterte who is the subject of a complaint in the International Criminal Court over the alleged “crimes against humanity” for several thousands of Filipino drug suspects killed in police operations.

It was apparently in retaliation after President Duterte publicly criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who questioned his war on drugs in the Philippines. This was during the ASEAN regional summit in Manila in November when President Duterte twitted Trudeau saying he “would not answer to any other bullshit, especially (from) foreigners.” President Duterte explained it is unavoidable for the Philippine military to use the choppers not only to fly out wounded troopers but also as gunships for offensive operations against the armed enemies of the State, especially the communist insurgents.

“The reason I’m buying helicopters is because I want to finish them (insurgents) off,” the President pointed out. “If I cannot use the gunship, the helicopter, then I might as well surrender this government to them,” he fumed.

In fairness, the President disclosed, Bato offered to give to him for his own use the newly acquired Bell chopper for the PNP. But he turned it down, citing he actually would have four new Bell choppers out of the 16 units being procured from Canada before he scrapped it eventually.

Thus, the President’s calling Dela Rosa as “hambugero” was said more on fond derision at the latter. Dela Rosa’s close association with the President dates back while he was assigned as city police chief and the latter was still Mayor of Davao City.

Aside from grooming him to become his new BuCor chief after retirement, Dela Rosa has been frequently mentioned among the possible 12-man senatorial ticket that President Duterte’s PDP-Laban party may put up in the coming May 2019 mid-term elections.

Dela Rosa already thanked the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for expressing support to his Senate bid if it pushes through. In his press conference the other day, Dela Rosa pointed to President Duterte when pressed if he would make a run for senator, saying: “Whatever he says I will follow. I’m a good soldier, I will follow orders from my boss.”

Even as his political plans are now out in the open, “hambugero” Dela Rosa goes around the country throwing out of the window “delicadeza” as he flaunts the PNP’s new Bell429 GlobalRanger chopper.

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