‘Utmost disappointment’

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2019 - 12:00am

You are not alone; hindi ka nag-iisa, Mr. President.

For different reasons these days, people also feel “utmost disappointment” in the Philippine National Police (PNP).

President Duterte reportedly expressed his dismay during a command conference at Malacañang last Wednesday with his security officials.

Palace officials confirmed that the police officers received a dressing down from Duterte, who lamented the thanks that he got after he had given the PNP all the support he could give for carrying out his anti-crime campaign.

There’s basis for his disappointment. Public school teachers and nurses are complaining that he has given priority to police and military personnel in raising the entry pay to P30,000 a month – significantly higher than the P20,754 for teachers and about P18,000 for nurses.

Duterte has given the uniformed services performance bonuses, more guns and equipment, housing. He takes every opportunity to attend the wakes of cops and soldiers killed in the line of duty, giving the bereaved families cash abuloy and other forms of assistance.

His administration has been providing legal assistance to PNP members who are sued in connection with police operations, notably the war on drugs. In numerous speeches, Duterte has reassured his cops of his support as they battle not only drug personalities but also human rights advocates.

I remember an officer, a marksman (there aren’t many of them in the police) and one of the best operatives in the Manila police, who left the service because he didn’t get any support from the PNP in his legal battles related to cases filed against him in connection with legitimate police operations.

He has their back; what does Duterte get from the PNP in return? He said it last week.

*      *      *

Cops have seen that there are limits and nuances to the legal support PNP members can expect from the government in carrying out the war on drugs.

Police scalawags have been arrested, shamed before the media, jailed and prosecuted. Critics, on the other hand, say the numbers aren’t enough compared to the scale of the abuses, and that these cases are exceptions – tokens meant to foil prosecution for crimes against humanity.

Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido still has a license to kill from Duterte. It’s just hyperbole, Malacañang clarifies; it’s just Duterte’s manner of speaking, says Espenido, but he adds that he’s grateful for the trust and the blanket authority to do his job.

In giving his marching orders to Espenido, Duterte was probably heartened by the results of a recent survey showing high public support for his anti-drug campaign.

Espenido is clearly not among the cops who have caused the President utmost disappointment. And Espenido is assured of legal support in case he is sued by the likes of the Parojinogs and Espinosas.

Still, there are cops who have been prosecuted for abusing their authority in fighting the drug menace. Gen. Oscar Albayalde, now facing serious legal problems and a turbulent retirement, was perceived to have gone after such cops during his stint as PNP chief.

Albayalde was helped along by the fact that during his stint as top cop, the lead role in the war on drugs was returned – as stipulated by law – to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. While there are also rotten eggs in the PDEA, the agency by and large is showing that it’s possible to battle the drug menace without going on a murderous rampage.

Even with the PDEA in the lead, the PNP remained heavily involved in the drug war. And under Albayalde, there were far fewer drug deaths at the hands of cops. He picked PNP mouthpieces who talked about the importance of human rights in law enforcement. A senator (who asked not to be named) told me Albayalde was better “by a mile” than his predecessor (and endorser), in all aspects except perhaps in the entertainment factor and loyalty to the President.

Which is why Albayalde’s fall from grace over the so-called ninja cops has caused such public dismay and, yes, utmost disappointment in the PNP.

*      *      *

Even with the curbs implemented by Albayalde on the brutality of the war on drugs, survivors and victims of Oplans Tokhang and Double Barrel feel something worse than disappointment over the way the PNP has waged its campaign.

And it’s not just the anti-drug campaign. The next PNP chief may want to ramp up efforts to curb petty crimes – cell phone snatching, muggings over laptops and similar gadgets, house break-ins. These are crimes that few people bother to report to the police, believing the stolen items are impossible to recover. But such thievery makes people feel unsafe, and gives the impression that cops aren’t doing their job.

Cops are supposed to familiarize themselves with the community where they operate – well enough to know the fences of stolen items as well as notorious pickpockets. Yes, stolen goods can be recovered and the fence sent to prison.

In Manila, Mayor Isko Moreno did the right thing by going after the fences of stolen cell phones and even shutting down the shopping mall where they had their stalls.

Police presence in the streets is also a crime deterrent. If the 190,000 police personnel aren’t enough, the PNP should pull out all the cops assigned to VIP bodyguard duty. Why should politicians and even businessmen get special protection at taxpayers’ expense? With all their money, they can surely afford to pay for their own security.

For housecleaning in the police, putting the Internal Affairs Service outside the jurisdiction of the PNP command is a good idea.

After Duterte expressed his disappointment, PNP officials vowed to make an effort to regain his trust.

Let’s see whether the vow will be heeded down the ranks.

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