What is the PNP chief talking about?

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

It is truly unfair, this early in his new assignment, to make unflattering comparisons between newly-installed chief of the Philippine National Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. and his predecessor General Guillermo Eleazar. It would have been better if Azurin is first allowed to warm his seat before some form of measurement is taken. Still, the manner in which both hit the ground is simply too stark to ignore.

Thus, any unfairness may be assuaged by the fact that accomplishments are not the issue here. Actual deeds will take some time to make their way up to the scales. What immediately begs for attention is how both gentlemen stepped in through the door. In his time, Eleazar marked his first days with action, conducting surprise inspections of various units under him. Azurin preferred to talk.

I do not know what exactly got the goat of Philstar columnist Mon Tulfo about Azurin. But in his column of August 6, he chided the new PNP chief for "preaching religion". To me, preaching sounds awfully like talking. Okay, if Tulfo cannot let that pass, I can. But then last Monday, August 8, Philstar bannered Azurin on his statement that "killing is not the solution" to the drug problem.

Now, that is talk again, this time employing very big words. Big words because they are in direct reference to, and direct contradiction of, the policy widely attributed to the former president Rodrigo Duterte in his controversial war on drugs. If it now appears that Azurin was not in step with that policy, why did he stay with the march? As a high-ranking officer under Duterte, he cannot play coy to that policy.

Granted, he may have been a conscientious objector to that policy. But was it truly policy? If I remember right, it was the media that made it policy, by putting words into the mouth of Duterte, or more precisely, made it appear he spoke only portions of what he actually said. It was in Davao that the former president outlined the policy in very clear, no uncertain terms.

What Duterte actually said was that if drug suspects resist arrest and put up a fight and the police feel their lives may be in danger, then they may shoot to kill. But that is too long an outline to fit into a headline, especially if the intention is to grab attention in order to sell. And so the media truncated the rest of the verbiage and splashed only the "shoot to kill".

And that is what stuck, especially when bodies started to pile up. Shoot to kill. News that sells like hot cakes often drives media to cavalier indolence. Why kill the goose that lays golden eggs, which is what diligent fact and background checking would have done to temper the stories. Hence, there is almost never any mention of the fact that millions of illegal guns are in the hands of those not supposed to have them.

In other words, it is more likely than not that people who engage in illegal activities such as illegal drugs would also have illegal guns and that when you have guns, you are more likely to use them instead of just keeping them hidden under the bed. The high body count in the war on illegal drugs is thus more likely the result of suspects fighting it out with cops than just from getting rubbed out.

Of course, killing is not the solution to the drug problem. Not even Duterte said that, the media only made it appear he did to make him look bad. Of course Duterte never corrected the wrong impression. Maybe he found the media spin was the better idea. To the end Duterte remained hugely popular. So what is Azurin talking about? If he thinks he can earn points at Duterte's expense, he cannot be more wrong.


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