Going all-out against rogue cops

Former Senator

The persistent problem of police scalawags has gotten President Rodrigo Duterte angry again. So angry was he that a flurry of expletives just weren’t enough. One could feel he really wanted them dead.

“Prangkahan ko ngayon ang buong Pilipinas. ‘Pag ganun kayo nang ganun, p***** i** papatayin ko talaga kayo! Masiguro ninyo ‘yan. Wala na akong magawa sa inyo, mga ulol kayo,” an exasperated President blurted out as he admonished the erring lawmen standing before him last August 7 at the Malacañang grounds.
Many feel the President can’t be blamed for the display of seething anger. At a time when the Philippine National Police is starting to regain the trust of the citizenry, news of supposed law enforcers turning into lawbreakers keeps cropping up.

Recent headlines focused on four Taguig City policemen moonlighting as kidnappers who were busted in an entrapment operation that led to a shootout that killed one of them. And in Cebu, there’s the case of a barangay councilor recently targeted for assassination by a gunman who turned out to be a cop.

There are also countless stories of abusive policemen involved in the drug war who prey on hapless citizens, some of whom die while in police custody. So many victims of police abuses have had to bear the brunt of the rampant corruption and relentless impunity of those supposedly sworn to serve and protect.

For so long a time, the nation has been saddled with a police force suffering from a sullied image, lawmen who betray the trust bestowed on them when they are armed and equipped to uphold the law, cops who make a mockery of their sworn duty when they become criminals themselves.

Of course, most men and women in uniform remain loyal to their sworn commitment to serve and protect, put their lives on the line, always strive to enforce the law with utmost professionalism, and would not tolerate colleagues who go astray.

Yet while it’s true that scalawags might constitute just a very small minority of the PNP, the grim reality is that they can shape public perception or even subvert the criminal justice system. Indeed, the impact on public perception of the bad eggs can unfairly depict the entire basket to be rotten.

But the situation is now expected to become better, especially with the exemplary leadership of Director General Oscar Albayalde at the helm of the PNP, and Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar as head of the National Capital Region Police Office.

In last Sunday’s episode of my DZMM teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan (8 to 9 a.m. Sundays), Chief Supt.   Eleazar was my studio guest and he said that the “internal cleansing” of the PNP has become a top priority, next to the anti- illegal drugs campaign of the Duterte administration.

He said the internal cleansing drive has necessitated the increase in number of hearing officers to speed up due process and resolve within just 3 to 4 months the administrative cases and summary dismissal proceedings against police misfits.

As a result of the no-nonsense internal cleansing campaign, Chief Supt. Eleazar said public support for the PNP has increased dramatically as more people are cooperating and providing crucial information needed to build a strong case against a policeman gone rogue, unlike before when citizens, resigned to the thought that their efforts would just be futile, wouldn’t bother to report the erring cop.

In the teleradyo program, he also showed stickers about the NCRPO’s campaign: “Pulis na Abusado, Pusher at mga Loko… Agad i-Send Mo sa Team NCRPO!” Citizens could report their concerns by texting Globe 0915-888-818 and Smart 0999-901-8181. Such program is commendable indeed, especially since crime prevention is everyone’s concern.

What else could be done to ensure that policemen don’t go astray, especially now that their salaries have been doubled?

In a recent episode of Magpayo Nga Kayo teleradyo program, also at DZMM (9:30 – 10:30 am, Saturdays), which I co-host with May Valle Ceniza, some callers said moral values formation must be intensified within the PNP to keep its members on the right track. Another proposed that financial literacy must be focused on so they could efficiently manage their finances and resist illegal sources of income.

Various measures and reforms are indeed needed on essential factors – like screening and selection of police recruits, education and training, values formation, periodic evaluation to determine continuing physical, emotional, mental, and moral fitness – to ferret out the bad eggs that tend to be a bad influence on good policemen.

On recruitment, Chief Supt. Eleazar said a significant reform is now in place – a barcode, instead of the name and other details of the recruit, is being used on documents – to prevent meddling by persons of influence that could bring in undesirables. The recruitment process should keep out shady characters, and pre-employment screening ought to spot red flags that must not be ignored. As the 19th-century social reformer Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Current efforts to redeem the image of the PNP could bring about significant improvement. But it all boils down to the quality of leadership. I have no misgivings about Chief Supt. Eleazar. When I was governor of Laguna, he was chief of police in San Pedro. His sterling achievements earned him an award as “best junior police officer of the Philippines” during his tour of duty there.

As in any organization, quality of leadership is crucial. If beyond reproach, it should inspire the police rank and file to strive for excellence. And citizens would, in turn, be inspired to give full support and cooperation to the police, as well as their trust, of course.

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