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The light in the haze

As the public perception of AFP and PNP are further beaten to the pulp with the recent spate of hazing incidents, a beam of brightness has cut through the miasma of negativity. The Metrobank Foundation honored the 2011 awardees for the Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) and The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS). One of the judges, Cong. Rodolfo Biazon said, “The Filipino soldier has been maligned many times over. It’s about time that they would be given recognition for who really they are and what they stand for.”

The TOPS’ choices are: From the Army, Colonel Daniel A. Lucero, Master Sergeant Sixto P. Navarrosa, and Chief Master Sergeant Billy C. Benebile. From the Navy, Colonel Alexander F. Balutan, Technical Sergeant Rommel Carbon, Data Processor 3 Jairus M. Cenabre. From the Air Force, Colonel Raul del Rosario, Master Sergeant Nelson S. Mercado, Colonel Alexis Tamondong from Technical Services. Master Sergeant Maria Teresa M. Bitong is the only female.

COPS’ winners are: PO2 Rina dela Cruz Salaya, SPO1 Manuel Almadrigo Padlan, SPO4 Emmanuel Portillo Isiang, Chief Inspector Delia Jacob Ingalla, Supt. Steve Bentican Ludan, Supt. Samuel Pomasin Turla, SPO2 Helen Lapay dela Cruz and PO3 Rodel Umaclap Alcano.

Each received P300,000 of which P25,000 is earmarked for materials or equipment donated to his/her unit. With this goes the unstinting admiration and undying gratitude of the Filipinos.

Juxtapose this against the latest scandal to bruise PNP. Eight NCOs were relieved from their posts for their alleged involvement in hazing. A video sent to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) showed officers abusing trainees undergoing the Special Counter-Insurgency Operation Unit Training. Blindfolded, the trainees were made to eat chili and drink water with black pepper, forced to remove their underwear and rub ground chili on their genitalia. Relieved were PO1 Roque Oro, Rovylyn Addatu, Evan Mark Cuartero, Marfe Adler, Jhun Plonelo, Allan Pascua, Melvin Malihan, and Troy Sumayod. They are under restrictive custody pending investigation.

Equally unsettling was another video showing a PMA cadet being pushed, punched and kicked in the abdomen and thighs by fellow cadets. The names of the three PAF lieutenants tagged in the hazing are still withheld. They may be acquitted, reprimanded or dismissed depending on the gravity of their offense.  

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These acts of horrendous degradation and brutality are rationalized as “toughening” rookies against worse torture by enemies. Whether there is proof that these actions actually achieve their purpose remains as debatable as the methodology. Sometimes we need to remember that even in a basketful of rotten eggs, there are courageous men and women who excel in their work, remain true to their oaths and serve the public with distinction.

Citizen Y honors four women who juggle motherhood and career and manage to stand out in a macho, at times misogynistic culture.

Master Sergeant Ma. Teresa M. Bitong

Non-Commissioned Officer, Director of the AF Officers Candidate School, Air Education and Training Command, Fernando Air Base, Lipa City. 

First assigned to President Cory Aquino’s PSG detail during the coup-riddled years, Bitong’s bravery has since been further commended. She garnered the third-highest military award, the Gold Cross Medal for saving trapped Marines in Mindanao; Bronze Cross Medal [as a helicopter gunner in Basilan], PAF Enlisted Person [1993] and AFP Women Auxiliary Corps [1984]. Bitong was also awarded thrice with the Gawad sa Kaunlaran for work in the AFP-aided communities and the Sagisag ng Ulirang Kawal for air operations in Mindanao, to monitor environmental violations through the Southern Philippines Observation and Tracking System. Bitong, married with two children, has 22 years of service.

PO2 Rina Dela Ceuz Salaya

Community Relations Human Rights/Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team   Desk PNCO Maasin Municipal Police Station of Iloilo.

Salaya is known for tenacious determination to pursue justice. She believes that efficiency can curb abuse and increase trust in the law. Protecting women and children and participating in neighborhood-oriented activities are among her notable achievements. The Pulis Ko, Teacher Ko program inculcated patriotism, children’s rights, and rule-of-law in students. Volunteering time and energy, Salaya helped renovate schools devastated by typhoons through Adopt-A-School. She has been a policewoman for 7 years, is married with four children.

Police Chief Inspector Delia Jacob Ingalla

Chief, Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD)/ Family, Juvenile, Gender and Development (FJGAD) Section, Taguig City 

The women and children’s protection desk is a demanding post with daily reports of abuse, neglect and betrayal. Under Ingalla, the Taguig Police Station became a leader in the metropolitan area. On its record-breaking roster are 30 rescued victims, incurred with zero to minimal cost to their families. Crime prevention is her other passion. Oplan Nightbirds, an anti-criminality program mounted by Ingalla, enjoined public safety officers to enact evening patrols in crime-prone areas. This decreased the instances in criminality by 27% from 2006-2007. 

SPO2 Helen Lapay Dela Cruz

WCPD Investigator, NCR Criminal Investigation and Detection Group

A lawyer and criminologist by education, Dela Cruz is one of PNP’s finest detectives and defender of women’s and children’s rights. Famous for cases solved in record-time, the rape of a South African woman inside the San Juan police station was filed in five days, earning praise from the South African Embassy. She has also made a name in buy-bust operations on illegal drug traders, raids on knock-off apparel and electronics stores, entrapment operations to take down a pyramid-scam and the arrest of the suspect who tried to swindle nursing board examiners. Bringing sexual and physical predators of minors to justice is her vocation.

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The difference between the champions and the scum in the ranks of AFP and PNP is as stark as the wellbeing or terror that they evoke from the public. Leaders should emulate the TOPS and COPS elite before they can persuade the rank and file to cast their lot with the finest rather than the fallen. The insight learned is the opposite of what has been drilled in our heads all this time: Doing good actually pays. A good deed is also a good deal. Nice guys finish first.

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E-mail citizenyfeedback@gmail.com.

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