Some reactions to PNP purge program

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

First, an update on CAAP the investigation.

Right after the New Year fiasco at the CAAP that saw some 65,000 air travelers stranded and unable to proceed to their destinations and over 300 flights cancelled, with incoming international flights being directed back to point of origin or elsewhere, Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista vowed that “heads would roll for NAIA mess!”

So far, the only head rolling is the head of the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance System for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM), Arnold Balucating, who has been forced to take a leave of absence from his position.

Our readers should recall that earlier, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, of the House committee investigating the CAAP debacle, declared that there was no point in proceeding with any investigation unless the top leadership of the organization takes a leave of absence. The Senate committee on public safety led by Sen. Grace Poe also noted that the CAAP “cannot self-investigate.” This was also the view expressed by Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

Apparently, Arnold Balucating is the sacrificial lamb being offered by his superiors to placate calls for new leadership at the CAAP. As someone noted, there was “a high level failure of leadership” in the organization. But it appears that we continue to have some sacred cows, even if the lives of traveling air passengers are on the line each time an aircraft takes off or is scheduled to arrive. Even an “independent probe” can only do so much if the same officials remain in place during the investigation.

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Thirty years after president Fidel V. Ramos’s surgical operation on the Philippine National Police organization, an action that resulted in the early retirement of 63 senior police officers made up of 40 senior superintendents and 23 chief superintendents, the present administration led by DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos is well on its way to replicating a similar action. The question remains the same as before: Will any revamp accomplish its objective of revitalizing the organization and refurbishing a tarnished image?

The latest development so far is the creation of a five-man PNP Review Board, composed of PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr., Baguio City Mayor Gen. Benjamin Magalong, retired Police Gen. Isagani Neres, PMA class 1984, currently Undersecretary for Police Affairs in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs (OPAMA). The fifth member has chosen to remain anonymous for security reasons. This appears to be a mystery decision since sooner or later, his name will be revealed in the coming weeks.

In FVR’s review group – Committee of Elders – there were nine members with the body given a target deadline of 45 working days. The present board has been allotted three months to submit their recommendations.

Some reactions on the proposed purge: One reader writes, “There were 40 senior superintendents and 23 chief superintendents whose retirements were approved. If some were purged because of involvement in crimes like kidnapping or illegal drugs, were court cases filed against them? Were any of them convicted and imprisoned? Was the money they earned from illegal activities confiscated? Because they were retired, what happened to their retirement pay/pension? What lessons were conveyed to the officers below the rank of senior superintendent at that time?”

These are questions that should be kept in mind by those carrying out the current reorganization of the PNP. As far as I can tell, no one was ever charged and dismissed who were among those retired by FVR’s action.

Another comment: “These purges of the police organization are really ineffective for as long as there exists a wide gap between the justice standards for the poor and marginalized sectors of society as against the standards being upheld for the wealthy and the powerful in the country. When the son of a Cabinet member gets his drug case resolved in roughly 100 days, while the victims of the drug war do not receive any kind of attention or justice, what reasons would policemen have in upholding the law when they can see how things work and how they can escape accountability and punishment for their own crimes?”

There is practically very little incentive for good behavior, and the rewards of bad behavior far outweigh the risks, if any. Policemen, perhaps more than any group in society, are aware of the realities of power and wealth in the hands of favored groups. Until we have a more perfect justice system in the country, we cannot expect much from a police organization that is often subject to pressure from influential politicians and their wealthy padrinos.

In my earlier articles about the PNP reorganization carried out during the FVR presidency, I failed to mention the bold and courageous work undertaken by one individual that contributed greatly to the pressures that were brought to bear on the government drive to put an end to kidnapping for ransom activities of criminal gangs.

Last Thursday, Teresita Ang See narrated her 30-year journey with the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO). With her advocacy group Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran as lead convenor, she quickly organized a funeral protest march that would call government attention to the criminal activities aimed not just at Tsinoy families but even at Pinoy circles.

Exactly a month after the funeral march for one of the latest victims Charlene Sy, president Ramos, in a memorandum to DILG Secretary Rafael Alunan, issued the guidelines for the PNP revamp.

Oftentimes it is the work of a few individuals that galvanizes community action when government fails to deliver in basic services. Teresita Ang See is one of those individuals. Last Christmas, she marked her 73rd birth anniversary. Although late, we wish her all the blessings of the Almighty so as to enable her to continue working for our communities.

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