PNP chief: 200 rogue cops under watch
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2014 - 12:00am

President Noynoy Aquino beefs about crime news reporting. He says crime stories are splashed on the front page, yet police solutions are “buried in page 20.” Untrue.

The cracking of a car racer’s murder was front-page stuff. Making it newsworthy was the confession of the triggerman — a cop who at first was arrested for drug trafficking.

Front-page too was the surrender of a businessman’s abductors in broad daylight on Metro Manila’s busiest avenue. They were a squad of narcs, out to steal the victim’s P2 million-cash freshly withdrawn from the bank.

Also big news was the instant nabbing of a cop who massacred four neighbors, two female, for inability to repay him a debt.

A moneylender got top-bill for exposing another police squad that framed him with false car theft. First they seized his van and P200,000 cash. When he complained to the NBI, they got back at him by taking his other cars from his garage over the next several days.

Again big news was the escape in Caloocan City of a kidnapped for ransom Chinese tourist. He had slipped out of the hideout of dozing captors — cops from adjacent Bulacan province.

All this happened within the other week. Buried inside pages that same week was a police bungling. A kidnapped Chinoy suddenly was murdered when his kin were about to deliver ransom — under police guidance. Treated small too were three stories of cop abuse. First was the killing by a drunken officer of his live-in partner. Another, the mauling of two church workers by a neighbor-cop. Third was about a peeping tom-cop, sadly hacked to death by angry barrio folk.

It was from the front-paged police work that the public learned about cop involvement in crime commission as well. It was from victims’ daring exposés and escapes that people realized the cop ubiquity in heinous crime.

There’s something about headlines in relation to life’s basics. One shouldn’t expect praise for doing what he’s paid so expected to do. Cops don’t need front-paging for solving crimes, but certainly will be exposed if they mix up in it.

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Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima wisely blames no one for the bad press the PNP has been getting lately. Instead he pleads for continued public trust to report scalawags in the service, so he can nail them. See no less than the regional, provincial, city, or station chief, he pleads to victims, for such officers are under strict instructions to act swiftly. (He requested an interview to air his side on criticisms in my radio show and this column.)

Internal Affairs, and local PNP disciplinary bodies have long been monitoring rogue cops, Purisima says. Just that, to make charges stick, they need to catch them red-handed. Of the 150,000 PNP personnel, about 200 are under in-house surveillance. In 2013 he sacked 249 scalawags and suspended 585 more; in the first half of 2014, 18 and 67, respectively. This is a continuation of his predecessors’ dismissal of 631 and suspension of 1,351 in 2011-2012.

Rookie screening has been toughened, to keep misfits out, says Purisima. He asked police academy administrators to eradicate bribery in entrance and psychiatric exams. He invites licensed medical, science, engineering, and technology professionals to apply with ease.

On crime solving, Purisima recognizes lapses due to inattention. Detectives are overloaded with case assignments, from various superiors at that. Curing it needs a merit system for quick solvers. He vows to start with the Anti-Kidnapping Group, about which NGOs complain of too frequent turnovers of newly promoted officers, emasculating the unit and disrupting the sleuthing for months.

On police response, Purisima is to look into grumbles of business and tourist districts about spotty patrols and unanswered distress calls. No excuses about being undermanned and -equipped, he says, the PNP simply has to work harder.

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Any frequent traveler to General Santos City would marvel at how dramatically it changes with every visit. Twenty years ago economic activity centered on the US-built seaport, where unloaded weekly were tons of fresh tuna caught in the Celebes Sea just outside Sarangani Bay. Ten years ago the tuna trading at the port had become daily, with local and Japanese buyers bidding at dawn for the best catch, to be sent from the huge airport to various Asian capitals by lunchtime. Banks, eateries, and inns thrived. Five years ago, tuna canneries — six of seven such Philippine factories — had become the main employers. Migrants teemed, speaking Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Pampangan, Ilocano, and Tagalog. Today, there’s truck traffic, and swarms of private motorcycles and public tricycles. Swanky hotels, malls, classy bistros, car dealerships, filling stations, and more banks have sprouted up. There’s now nightlife, as residents have more money to spare. Tuna catch, about 145,000 tons a year — fresh, chilled or frozen, smoked, dried or canned — bring in $380 million (P17.1 billion). More than 20,000 citizens of GenSan and adjacent South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces work in the canneries, 170 fishing ships, and 3,000 hand-line boats.

But Mayor Ronnel C. Rivera, scion of tuna magnate Rodrigo Rivera, is worried. Tuna landings are dwindling. Although last year’s 165,000 was the best in five years, growth has plateaued. Climate change, overfishing, and neighbor-states’ restrictions on fishing grounds are taking their toll. Marfenio Y. Tan, one of GenSan’s five tuna pioneers, says Filipino catchers are moving to Papua, Palau, and Solomon Islands.

Mayor Rivera sees GenSan’s future as a tourist-convention city, owing not just to scenic spots but also to cheap food and living costs. Also, as a university center, since it has sprawling campuses to offer, for the region’s youths seeking professions. The latter plan had snagged, though, when Rivera was primary councilor under a hostile predecessor. Talks collapsed for the opening of one of the country’s top universities, when a city hall bigwig demanded that the school rector purchase the family property. Rivera is still fixing the inherited fiasco.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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