PNP: Shamed and scorned

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Just as they are about to close the year, the Philippine National Police has once again been shamed and scorned by netizens on social media because of the double murder committed by a police master sargent in Paniqui, Tarlac. The double murder that was caught on video was so cold and indifferent that it was like watching a real life “snuff movie” where people are killed and the video sold or shared for its shock value.

If members of the PNP feel equally shocked and ashamed of what a colleague has done, it pains me to say the PNP deserves to be shocked, shamed and scorned because for the longest time a number of police officers have literally gotten away with murder and other heinous crimes, protected by their colleagues or officials through cover ups, some even participating in the intimidation, arreglo or “buy out” of victims while the entire organization continues to ignore the problem or, as in the words of their newest spokesperson Brig. Gen. Usana, “choosing to move on.” The problem is unless the PNP investigates all such cases, studies the institutional disease and sins of officials and re-educate new recruits, the PNP and the public will only be momentarily “moving on” until the next shooting or cold blooded murder.

Take for instance Master Sgt. Jonel Nuezca who is the perpetuator of the double murder of an elderly mother and her young son. According to published reports, Nuezca has had a series of cases both administrative and criminal. He did not show up in court as witness in a drug case filed by the police, an act that often leads to the dismissal of charges against drug pushers. Later he refused to undergo mandatory drug testing which already raises suspicion that he could be one of the several police officers who have been using drugs. But instead of termination, he was simply suspended for a month and eventually allowed to go back to work. One wonders if he eventually agreed to be tested and if not, why was he not fired? Up to this point any HR or psychiatrist would have reasonable basis to label him as high risk. But instead he got to keep his job until he got involved in two homicide cases that were dismissed “for lack of evidence or complainant.” How can two people be dead and the investigators say there is lack of evidence or no complainant? Finally, he loses it all and again kills two people, but this time it is a double murder because he used overwhelming force with the legal power of a law enforcer shooting two unarmed, defenseless individuals who were begging for mercy and their lives.

The problem dear Yorick is not in the stars, it is in the PNP.

How many times have we read news accounts where relatives of dead, murdered or extrajudicially killed individuals talk about strangers patrolling their area during the period of investigation? Of receiving death threats if they cooperate with authorities or the media or of cases suddenly going silent because the families of the murdered individuals chose to “settle matters amicably?”

The PNP needs to come to terms with their ugly past, investigate and “confess” these acts publicly. If it is too much to ask for justice or punishment of the guilty, at the very least, the PNP should recognize the institutionalized acts of conspiracy or cover-up. The PNP should in no uncertain terms take responsibility for allowing or tolerating such acts and failing to take actions against them. Among them: 1. The practice of  “arbor” or taking cognizance or placing a guilty cop under a patron’s wings. 2. Getting rid of the problem cop by simply reassigning him in some far-flung or low-profile community where he transforms into the biggest bullies or terrorist/extortionist in the community; 3. Passing the buck or the ugly task of immediately disciplining or punishing an erring police officer. 4. Failing to have a process and system of reporting and tracking deviant, violent or rebellious behavior among cops so behavioral experts can predict potential break down or full-blown violence. 5. Making senior officers and superiors accountable and punishable for failing to address disciplinary issues and behavior among the people under their command.

During the Duterte administration, there have been a few occasions when the PNP almost lost public respect and support. They have somehow climbed out of that hole but regularly end up with one foot slipping in. What we don’t want is a situation similar to the United States where a few so-called isolated cases led to outrage, public anger directed at the police to the point where even government officials supported the disarming and defunding of the police in certain states.

Yesterday, someone on social media reminded netizens that if they could support the campaign “Black Lives Matter” or the campaign against racial discrimination and police brutality, Filipinos should also do something about the double murder case in Paniqui, Tarlac. That one individual, a complete stranger, got my attention, how much more if people start repeating and reminding Filipinos of the thousands of deaths that involved the police.

It takes courage to bring out skeletons in the closet but that is exactly what the PNP leadership and every decent police officer in the country need to do. Face your ghosts and exorcise the demons in the institution.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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