Will this change affect PNP’s civilian character?

Published April 11, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


There is a move for a change in the present system of ranks in the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the one now in use in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through House bill No. 5236 filed by Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, a former police officer.

President Duterte had suggested that the PNP adopt the ranks used in the AFP for easier understanding by the public, former PNP chief Ronaldo de la Rosa said. Newly appointed Oscar Albayalde has now said he supports the move.

Before the AFP and the PNP, there was the Philippine Constabulary (PC) created by the American colonial government in 1901 to replace the Spanish colonial Guardia Civil. It became the nucleus of the Philippine Army (PA) created by Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon in 1936. The AFP was established after Philippine independence in 1946 with four major services – the PA, the PC, the Philippine Air Force (PAF), and the Philippine Navy (PN).

The AFP and the police played a major role in enforcing the martial law proclaimed by President Marcos in 1972. Thus after the People Power Revolution of 1986, the framers of the new Constitution of 1987 saw to it that the police would be separate from the military. They provided in Article 6, Section XVI of our Constitution today: “The state shall establish and maintain one police force, which shall be national in scope and civilian in character….”

To stress the civilian character of this police force, the military ranks were replaced by civilian ones borrowed from police forces in other countries. Major was now Chief Inspector, for example. Colonel was now Senior Superintendent. Brigadier General was now Chief Superintendent. General was now Director.

Through all the years, however, the PNP Inspectors, Superintendents, and Directors preferred to be known as Majors, Colonels, and Generals, etc. These military ranks certainly sound more imposing. Besides, as Director Albayalde noted, people might mistake the police inspector for a bus inspector, the police superintendent for a school superintendent, etc.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, has come out to oppose the move to return to military ranks in the PNP. The Constitution specifically declared the PNP to be “civilian in character,” he said, and the use of civilian ranks is in accordance with this provision.

House bill 5236 has been approved by the House but may meet some opposition in the Senate. It will have to decide whether a return to military ranks will violate the PNP’s civilian character. Or whether this may safely be done, in the interest of greater public understanding and appreciation of the work of our police officers.