It's unclear if the 378 erring Philippine National Police personnel will be made to eat the water lilies blocking President Duterte's tugboat on its five-minute run across the Pasig River from his Bahay Pangarap rest house to his office at Malacañang Palace.
That's what Mr. Duterte said he would do to these policemen accused of minor infractions when he scrapped at the weekend an order by PNP Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa that they undergo retraining at the Subic "values leadership training school."
"The retraining is cancelled. I am countermanding the order of Bato. They report to Malacañang. You know why? I need to clear the Pasig River. My tugboat can't pass through because of the water lilies. I'll make them eat it," the President said.
Directive to PNP
In an interview at Camp Crame, PNP headquarters, in Quezon City on Monday, Dela Rosa said he was informed by Senior Supt. Felmo Escobal, the PNP liaison officer to Malacañang, of the President's directive for these policemen to start cleaning up the heavily polluted river.
"I will bring them to Malacañang, make them do a formation in front of the President so they can start cleaning up Pasig River," Dela Rosa said.
"The tugboat of the President when crossing from Bahay Pangarap to Malacañang always gets blocked by water lilies so we will let the policemen clean it up," he said.
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When asked by reporters, Dela Rosa did not say if the pesky hyacinths would be served as chow mein, only that the men would clean up the river.
The PNP chief, however, stressed that minor offences, which range from frequent absences to tardiness, are not grounds for separation from the service, and policemen who commit these acts can still be rehabilitated unlike those who commit heinous acts.
These men, he said, are "beyond economical, moral and spiritual repair."
"We consider these policemen as reformable unlike (those who committed) grave offences," Dela Rosa said, adding those accused of heinous crimes will be removed from the police organisation.
Last week, Dela Rosa ordered seven policemen in Angeles City to do push-ups while berating them for their alleged involvement in an extortion case against three South Korean tourists, drawing criticism.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, defended Dela Rosa.
"The message is good. Push-up is symbolic and the cussing and everything, but it should go beyond that," Lacson said.
The public is awaiting commensurate punishment for those who have strayed, he said.