PNP a seriously compromised institution

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MARIT STINUS-CABUGON

WITH the Philippine National Police embroiled in yet another controversy, I’d like to start by remembering one truly decent police officer: The late lawyer Andres Sarmiento. Once adjudged an Outstanding Policeman of Cebu City by the Kiwanis Club of Cebu, Sarmiento retired as internal affairs chief of the Police Regional Office 7, with an unblemished service record. Upon retirement, he devoted his law practice to helping indigent clients. He also joined Kiwanis to get involved in community service. Unfortunately, Sarmiento was shot dead in 2001 by someone he had sent to jail.

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The Kiwanis Club of Cebu eventually stopped its search for outstanding policemen: Too many awardees later turned scalawag. I recall one finalist who was found to be collecting protection money from an operator of illegal cockfighting. Another finalist used barangay tanod to stand guard outside the house of his mistress whenever he visited her, as uncovered by a private investigator hired to verify information provided by the public. Innocent, if not amusing, compared to stories about policemen being involved in extortion, drugs, kidnapping, and extra-judicial executions.

Shortly after the 2016 elections, anti-drug crusader Crisostomo Maternal Jr. was shot dead by a motorcycle-riding assassin in Barangay Bonbon, Cebu City. According to the Cebu City police, some drug personalities suspected that Maternal was giving information about illegal drug activities to his friends in the army. A convicted drug lord then allegedly ordered Maternal’s killing. The gunman himself was killed in a shootout with the police a month later and the case was considered closed.

Indeed, Maternal gave information to the soldiers. But I learned from one of them that it was information about policemen, not civilians, who were involved in the drug business in Barangay Bonbon.

Some Cebu-based policemen linked to criminal activities have been relieved since Ronald de la Rosa assumed the post of Phiippine National Police (PNP) Director General. One was PO3 Ryan Quiamco who was in President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of policemen allegedly involved in the drug trade. Quiamco was transferred to Camp Crame’s police holding admin unit where he had been marked as present on the day that he was killed by the police in Talisay City, Cebu. Alas, Quiamco never stopped doing his illegal business despite having been relieved and exiled to Camp Crame. This, an anonymous source told Sun Star Cebu, is possible because policemen reporting to Camp Crame’s holding center can just pay P6,000 in exchange for being recorded as present.

Dismissed police superintendent Ma. Christina Nobleza aided terrorists. Last April, while still in active service, she was arrested with her husband, wanted Abu Sayyaf bomber Renierlo Dongon, when they tried to aid remnants of the Abu Sayyaf team that had gone to Bohol on a kidnap-for-ransom mission. Nobleza also channeled money from the Middle East to local terrorists. About P1 million was remitted by Rahaf Zina, the widow of the second highest IS leader in Syria, to Nobleza from April 2015 to March 2017 (Radyo Inquirer, June 6, 2016).

Nobleza’s arraignment on illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives charges was supposed to have finally taken place in Tagbilaran City last August 25, but was reset as Nobleza claimed that her April 22 arrest in Clarin, Bohol, was illegal. She and Dongon were arraigned on the separate charges of disobedience to persons in authority and obstruction of justice last June at the court in Tubigon, Bohol.

Speaking of ASG, five days ago, an alleged member of the group was arrested in Simariki Island, Zamboanga City by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (www.zamboangatoday.ph). Imam Main Mohammad, reportedly with a P1.2 million bounty on his head, is accused of having been involved in the kidnapping of 21 tourists and resort workers in Sipadan, Malaysia, 17 years ago. Nasir Ismula, tribal chieftain of Simariki Island Sama Banguingui Association, vehemently denies that Imam Mohammad is, or ever was, a member of the ASG. Ismula and Mohammad have known each other since childhood, according to a source who knows both. Mohammad was reportedly arrested on the basis of the alias Abu Badjal – no complete name stated – and brought to Camp Batalla for interrogation. Is this a case of mistaken identity?

Indonesian authorities recently foiled a plan by IS-inspired militants to detonate a radioactive or chemical bomb (Straits Times, August 26). There are concerns that the war in Marawi City “has energized militants across Southeast Asia.” Is our Philippine National Police ready for this? Intel based on social media posts and evidence founded on “confessions” of criminals is obviously inadequate if not outright counter-productive in fighting crime, insurgency and terrorism. Killing and arresting people without thoroughly verifying their identities and alleged criminal acts produce a false sense of accomplishment. Such unprofessional practices and the widespread corruption in the PNP undermine the credibility of the entire police force, and make peace and order even more elusive.

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