A joke goes that before, Filipinos, when they needed help, called for a policeman. But now, when they see a policeman, they call for help.
This joke ended up being true. Just look at the way a lot of crimes nowadays are perpetrated by either former or active members of the police force.
The latest glaring example was the Edsa hold-up and kidnapping in broad daylight on September 1, which was led by a Police Chief Inspector, the Station Deputy Commander of La Loma in Quezon City.
From the start, President Noynoy Aquino’s administration seems to have been plagued by one police tragedy after another.
If you recall, less than two months after Mr. Aquino assumed office, a policeman dismissed from service because of corruption took a bus full of Hong Kong tourists hostage and killed eight of them after a botched rescue operation in what is now known as the Quirino hostage tragedy.
A Senate investigation into the hostage incident later revealed not only the incompetence of the rescue force deployed but also other more troubling aspects about police operations.
For instance, the Quirino hostage-taker and murderer Rolando Mendoza (along with his band of thieving police officers) were merely dismissed from service after being found guilty of their administrative cases. Their guns were not even taken from them. Mendoza used his service firearms when he took the tourist bus hostage and killed the hostages.
Then there was the Atimonan, Quezon massacre in January last year, in which 13 policemen charged with multiple murder for killing in a so-called police rubout fellow members of the police and military, who were allegedly coddling a gambling lord.
Criminality has only worsened under President Aquino’s watch. And sadly, he has earned the notorious reputation of being a kunsintidor for not cracking the whip on police officials.
Nobody believes the President’s and his police officials’ pronouncements that criminality is under control.
There is no denying corruption is still rampant in the police force. It has become a way of life for many policemen.
What’s bothering is that policemen are the ones who should enforce the law. So if they don’t follow the law themselves, indeed, if they are the ones who sanction, tolerate or even perpetrate criminal acts, then who will police them? Who will police the police?
Let’s face it, Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima is not doing a good job.
Even before, the President’s appointment of Alan Purisima as National Police chief had been met with controversy because when Purisima was still the commander of the Metro Manila police force, crime incidence in the metropolis actually increased.
Some critics said former National Police chief Nicanor Bartolome was forced into leaving his post early to give way to Purisima, even though the latter has no track record to boast of, except his closeness to the President.
Purisima was a member of the Presidential Security Group of the late President Corazon Aquino. He was with the young Noynoy Aquino when their convoy was ambushed at the height of the 1987 failed coup d’état. Noynoy was wounded during the attack.
Purisima’s lackluster performance when he was the Metro Manila police commander should have driven him to prove his critics wrong and the President right (in appointing him as PNP chief). Instead, he has been sleeping on the job and is now himself accused of profiting from his post.
The President himself should be hands-on in cleaning the police force of corrupt elements in order to bring back the people’s trust in their policemen. He can’t brag about economic development during his term when crime has been worsening.
Crimes, especially those perpetrated by policemen, give a very negative impression of the Philippines. Investors and foreign tourists coming across such news from our shores are given the impression that our country has many gun-toting elements gone wild. It is the last thing we need right now.
We need to maintain peace and order in the country. Again, we need to send a message that our country is safe for investors and tourists, wherever they choose to go.
Dismissals are long overdue, from top to bottom. The government must send a clear message to rogue officers within the PNP that their time is up and that it can no longer be business as usual.
The lifestyle audit in the PNP is a good start. There are so many rags-to-riches stories about policemen who do not even hide their wealth. Let’s have some accountability on how certain police officers were able to acquire their wealth. This could weed out the truly corrupt officers who have tarnished the image of policemen.
There are many dedicated, intelligent, honest and hardworking policemen within the PNP, even as there are many corrupt cliques whose criminal activities have been destroying the police.
Those lawmen who are found on the wrong side of the law must not only be dismissed but jailed. The problem, if you just dismiss them, is that they will still be criminals-at-large. It’s just that they would no longer be in uniform.
If the police are to restore trust they must do more than kick out the corrupt officers among them. They must make sure that these criminals-in-uniform would be safely behind bars.
There is nothing as dangerous as a dismissed and disgruntled corrupt police officer.