The involvement of policemen in some of the most heinous killings in the country dates as far back as the 1960s, when “killer-cops” became regular headline fodder. It is, therefore not true that the cold-blooded killing by a policeman of a mother and her son in Tarlac – in broad daylight and in full view of witnesses – was an isolated incident. Nor was it the deed of one rotten egg.
Just a few days before the Tarlac killing, I read an article about several policemen in the Cordilleras allegedly beheading their victim. Let’s not forget that in Quezon City, a policeman shot dead an unarmed former soldier for supposedly violating the government’s lockdown order. Then there is the murder of Kian delos Santos, a teenager whom the policemen tried to frame as a drug pusher. Recall also that several years ago, a Korean businessman met a violent end at the hands of policemen inside PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
Far from being an isolated case, the Tarlac killing is part of a pattern of abusive behavior among members of the police force. This behavior has of late been more amplified, more brazen. For some observers, this thuggish behavior has been encouraged, if not abetted, by the seeming indifference and public encouragement of some ranking personalities.
Yes, the outrage directed at the entire police force may be unfair to the other men and women of the PNP who conduct themselves in a professional manner, mindful of the limits of their authority and respectful of the rights of ordinary citizens. But given the mandate imposed on it by the Constitution, it is only proper that the PNP should be held to a higher standard. It is expected for the PNP to be more rigorous in its screening process. It needs to be more vigilant in monitoring and guiding the conduct of the entire police force. It has to be firm in dealing with delinquent policemen.
The PNP must ensure that it brings to its fold men and women who are morally upright and psychologically stable. Policemen are not ordinary government workers. They are tasked to ensure order and respect for the law. More importantly, they are tasked to protect citizens from criminals. That’s the reason they are issued guns. Those guns are supposed to be used against criminal elements who intend to do harm to civilians and our institutions.
Policemen are the people’s protectors, not their oppressors. Policemen should instill fear in the hearts of criminals, not the citizens they are supposed to protect.
Unfortunately, the new PNP chief failed to show concern, even indignation, over the report of yet another murderous policeman. His initial comment only added gasoline to the fire. Rather than condemn the heinous act, he was quoted in media as discouraging citizens from taking videos of crime incidents. When he was sternly reminded that had it not been for the video taken by a witness, the killing could have easily been written off by the policeman as an act of self-defense, the PNP chief claimed he was quoted out of context.
In the killings’ wake, the PNP chief and other public officials have put forward proposals to subject policemen to regular psychological and neurological tests. But testing is not a silver bullet. Testing alone will not end it. The PNP needs to undertake a thorough review of its culture and organization, and institute reforms. It should start with the recruitment process, and include measures for imposing discipline and punishing recidivists like the killer-cop of Tarlac.