With military ranks but still civilian policemen

Published February 26, 2019, 12:28 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-feb-26-2019In so many ways, the 1987 Constitution that was drawn up by a Constitutional Commission during the Cory Aquino administration of 1986 sought to avoid the excesses of the previous administration made possible by the martial law provisions of the previous 1935 Constitution.

Thus the 1987 Constitution, which is what we have today, placed many limitations on the use of martial law, so no succeeding president could use it as President Marcos did. While the new Constitution kept the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as “a regular force necessary for the security of the State,” it also provided for a police force “national in scope and civilian in character.”

To stress the civilian character of this police force, RA 6975 which established the Philippine National Police (PNP) provided for civilian — rather than military — ranks. Thus the top PNP chief had the rank of Director General – on the same level as the top AFP rank of full General.

Next in the list of new PNP ranks were Deputy Director General (on the same level as AFP Lieutenant General), followed by Director (as the AFP Major General), Chief Superintendent (as the AFP Brigadier General), Senior Superintendent (as the AFP Colonel), Superintendent (as the AFP Major), Chief Inspector (as the AFP Captain), and Inspector (as the AFP Lieutenant).

The general public, however, never got used to the new PNP ranks. President Duterte said he was confused by the new terminology. The police officials themselves preferred the old military ranks; they certainly sounded more impressive. Thus they continued to refer to themselves as generals, colonels, majors, etc.

It was for this reason that Congress recently enacted RA 11200, amending Section 28 of RA 6975. It adopted the AFP designations for the various ranks of the PNP but with the word Police. Thus Police General, Police Major, Police Captain, etc., all the way down to Police Corporal.

In the interest of greater public understanding,we welcome the new designations. We hope, however, that the military ranks will not influence some police officers and men into thinking
like military men in the field of battle. For they remain, as provided in the Constitution, “a police force national in scope and civilian in character.”

We have our Armed Forces trained to fight the nation’s enemies in battlefields, whether they be invaders from other countries or Filipino rebels out to topple our democratic government and replace it with their own system, such as Communist or Islamist. But we also have our police forces to maintain peace and order in our towns and cities against criminals such as thieves and robbers.

Our police officers and men, despite their new military ranks, should never lose sight of this fact that they are members of a civilian agency enforcing law and maintaining peace and order.