Getting rough against rogue cops

Published March 12, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

FINDING ANSWERS

By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY D. LINA

Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

It’s a thorny problem that refuses to go away, and people fed up with the persistent dilemma over police scalawags feel that Police Major General Guillermo Eleazar should be hailed a hero over his televised outburst against an alleged extortionist cop.

“Between him and the extortionist cop, he is a no-brainer choice of a hero,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said of Eleazar. “I understand his frustration and why he displayed such anger.”

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III also feels the same way. “Eleazar did right as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I understand his eruption. It’s a feeling of embarrassment for the damning acts of his men.”

I myself thought that Gen. Eleazar’s should not be faulted when I saw him on TV berating the disgraced policeman. Although my training as a lawyer has inculcated in me that a suspect should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, it’s difficult to think so amid reports he was caught with marked money in an entrapment. And there are the text messages showing his involvement in extortion.

For the longest time, our country continues to be 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 commitment when they become criminals themselves.

There are countless stories of law enforcers turned lawbreakers, of abusive policemen 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 impunity of those supposedly sworn to serve and protect.

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 small minority of the Philippine National Police, 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 dire situation can be expected to become better with the exemplary leadership of Gen. Eleazar who presently heads the National Capital Region Police Office. He seems to be dead serious in his relentless pursuit of honest-to-goodness internal cleansing of the police force under him.

Gen. Eleazar’s leadership and no-nonsense demeanor can undoubtedly inspire more public support and pave the way to restoring the public’s trust in the police, with more people cooperating and providing crucial information needed to build a strong case against policemen gone rogue, unlike in the past when citizens, resigned to the thought that their efforts would just be futile, wouldn’t bother to report erring cops.

As in any organization, quality of leadership is crucial indeed. If beyond reproach, it should inspire the police rank and file to strive for excellence. I have no misgivings about Gen. 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.

In August last year, Gen. Eleazar was studio guest in my DZMM teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan (8 to 9 a.m. Sundays). Pointing out that the PNP’s internal cleansing has become top priority next to the war on illegal drugs, he said the cleansing campaign 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.

Aiming to get more public support for the internal cleansing drive through my 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.

In striving to ensure that policemen don’t go astray, especially now that their salaries have been doubled, various reforms are certainly 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.

I also believe that efforts to improve the “financial literacy” of policemen must be in place so they could efficiently manage their finances and resist illegal sources of income. Doubled salaries would still get them nowhere if they lack financial literacy that would enable them to live within their means.

On recruitment, Gen. Eleazar said a significant reform is now in place – a bar code, 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.

Perfection ought to be aspired in the process of bringing in police recruits, as it might take a generation or two of recruits to eradicate vestiges of an apparent mindset of corruption and impunity afflicting the PNP. And instilling moral values must be relentless upon  new recruits. As the 19th-century social reformer Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

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