The old proverb says, “A rotten apple spoils the barrel.” It means that a bad person influences everyone he or she comes into contact with, making them bad, too; or a bad person or policy, etc., can ruin everything around it.
The shocking abduction and murder of a Korean businessman by PNP police personnel within the premises of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) acutely reminds us of the truth of the proverb, and its possibly even more alarming implication.
We are dealing here not just with one or two policemen who are rotten or are possible criminals. Now, the nation must worry also that they are representative of our entire police system – the PNP – they may not be the only ones who are rotten; the national force itself may be rotting also.
Regardless of the histrionics of the amiable PNP Director-General Roland de la Rosa, and his claims that the police corps stills deserves public trust, the nation cannot afford not to look and search for the facts.
What makes the situation alarming is not only the fact and details of the crime, but the fact that it took place right within the PNP’s headquarters in Camp Crame.
This is the second time within months that a person in the custody of the police has been murdered within police premises. The case of the late mayor Ronald Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte is still fresh in our minds. He was murdered in early dawn in the city jail of Bayabay, Leyte, by police of operatives of the PNP’s Criminal Detection and Investigation Group in Region 8 (East Visayas). No less than the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has concluded, after an exhaustive investigation, that Espinosa’s killing was a “rubout.” The commander of the PNP CDIG-8 stands accused along with others of the murder.
The case took place in October last year. So within the space of a few short months, the national police has placed itself in the rack for crimes of the most heinous nature.
To worry about the entire PNP barrel is not being alarmist; it is judicious. It’s well-proven from experience in the Congress and the police that the presence of one bad guy—or one “bad apple”—could mean the infection of the entire institution.
In Congress, official inquiry has shown that the misuse or abuse by some legislators of their pork barrel allocations led to the abuse/misuse of the same by nearly the entire legislature.
In the case of the PNP, we can remember many sensational cases in which members of our national police force, who instead of being enforcers of the law, were the ones breaking it.
The problem is such that the nation must not shirk the responsibility of investigating or inquiring competently, whether we face here “a culture of lawlessness and abuse” within the nation’s police force itself.
It’s unwise and imprudent to conclude this early or quickly that the entire PNP is rotten. That conclusion must be reached through patient and resolute investigation.
We would not counsel an inquiry by the Senate or the House of Representatives, because then it would become a political inquiry, to be manipulated at will by politicians. Far better is a judicious investigation by the Department of Justice and the NBI. They should be given full powers to investigate.
The dubious results of congressional inquiries are well known. We should not replicate them here. The stakes of a sound and resolute inquiry are very high. And they involve not merely the future of our police system, but the country’s reputation in the world, and its relationship with a close and most important neighbor—South Korea—which happens to be the biggest source of foreign visitors every year.
We have a compelling reason—and a moral obligation—to do justice and do the right thing in this case.