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EDITORIAL - Sometimes the best of intentions boomerangs

Sometimes the police can do or say things in the regular performance of their sworn duties and with nothing but the best of intentions but still come up with unintended results that have the potential to do more harm than good. Two examples, coming one after the other, best typify the aforesaid proposition. Thankfully, they do not seem to be the rule but rather the exception.

Early the other day, police in Quezon City arrested George San Mateo, president of the transport group Piston, as he was about to post bail for charges filed against him in February for leading a transport strike. From being truly deserving of punishment for causing so much trouble to the riding public in violation of his obligations as a public transport franchise holder, the very public arrest allowed San Mateo the chance to appear being persecuted, even heroic.

The police could have chosen a less spectacular time, place and manner to arrest San Mateo. The strike leader was certainly way below the level of popularity and influence that merit prime time news coverage. In fact, the police could just have let him go, knowing as they did that he was on the way to post bail and therefore would have to be freed anyway. But the police just had to make a hero out of the obscure San Mateo. And for what? So that they can let him go?

Later in the day, right here in Cebu City, the regional police office warned tourists about potential risks from communist rebels when visiting Negros island, advising them to shorten their stay there in case they really have to go. The warning was an apparent offshoot of a visit to the regional police office by the Belgian ambassador who was concerned about the safety of his compatriots and other foreigners following heightened activity by what President Duterte now calls terrorists.

By issuing the warning, the police not only virtually owned up the danger, it also tacitly endorsed the strength and capability of the communists, thereby handing them a great propaganda victory. Moreover, the warning indirectly caused serious harm to a local tourism industry that looks to foreign visitors as a staple resource. It would have been less harmful if the Belgian ambassador issued the warning himself because foreign governments do that all the time.

This is not to take issue with the police for performing their jobs because doing their jobs is precisely what happened in both cases. But the question needs to be asked — couldn't the police at least try to be more circumspect in carrying out their duties under certain circumstances? What happened in these two instances is similar to what happened in the government's controversial anti-drug war: The police became so gung-ho trying to match the president's rhetoric with zealousness.

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