There are criminal syndicates within the Philippine National Police (PNP). That’s an undeniable fact. The involvement of low-level to high-ranking policemen in a number of highly publicized crimes merely confirms what many ordinary Filipinos have known all along.
What is quite shocking about these incidents though is the brazenness with which rogue policemen are committing their nefarious activities. It’s as if they no longer fear being caught, let alone punished, for their misdeeds.
Take for instance the “hulidap” incident along EDSA a little over two weeks ago.
Under the guise of a drug bust, eight active and one dismissed policemen robbed and kidnapped two persons on board a Toyota Fortuner on EDSA in broad daylight.
The two victims, who were carrying some P2-million in cash, were forced by the rogue cops to withdraw money from their ATMs on their way to the police station at La Loma, Quezon City (also known as QC Police District—Station 1).
At the La Loma station, the two were detained for around seven hours until they were released at around 9 p.m. Perhaps as a gesture of goodwill for their cash bonanza, the policemen returned the victims’ SUV with its broken windshield repaired.
Unfortunately for these dirty cops, someone was able to take a video of the incident and posted a screenshot of it on Twitter. The photo spread like wildfire on social media, prompting the investigation by law enforcement authorities.
We all know, of course, that had it not been for that uploaded screenshot, the police-orchestrated robbery would have been just another crime statistic. In fact, police officials interviewed by media soon after the photo went viral, were clueless about the incident even though it happened a few hundred meters away from the national police headquarters in Crame.
Police authorities claimed no one reported the incident nor filed a complaint. But therein lies the dilemma of the many victims of police extortion: To whom do you report a crime when the crooks are cops, too?
Anyway, it took PNP officials another six days to figure out who the real perpetrators were.
Investigators tagged the head of the Investigation and Intelligence Branch of the La Loma station, with the rank of Senior Inspector (or Captain), as the mastermind of the EDSA “hulidap.” The deputy commander of the same station—a Chief Inspector (or Major)—was also implicated in the crime, together with six other policemen who, except for one, are his subordinates in QCPD Station 1.
Since the EDSA highway robbery hit the front pages, more reports of crimes involving policemen have emerged.
Recently, two cops from the Malolos, Bulacan police station were identified as part of the group that reportedly tried to kidnap a Chinese businessman Lin Han Zhang in Caloocan City a few weeks ago.
Lin said he was handcuffed and dragged out of the Light Rail Transit station in Monumento during the afternoon rush hour and then brought to a waiting vehicle. He also said the policemen demanded P8-million otherwise he would be booked on drug charges. Lin, however, managed to escape when his abductors fell asleep after a meal.
And last week, a Korean tourist accused four Manila policemen of extorting P30,000 from him under threat of being jailed for disorderly conduct.
Police insiders blame the “quota system” in the national police force for the rampant criminality among policemen.
Quota, in police jargon, is the weekly bribe money given by lower-ranked officers to their superiors in exchange for their position or assignment. With the quota system, policemen resort to illegal activities like extortion and shakedown in order to produce the “quota” demanded by the higher-ups.
As a result, sources say, crooked cops have turned some police stations into branches of organized crime much like the notorious Mafia.
It’s no surprise therefore that in a leaked diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks two years ago, US embassy officials described the PNP as “a mess.”
“The PNP suffers from a potent combination of malfeasance (misconduct or wrongdoing) and misfeasance (improper and unlawful execution of an act that in itself is lawful and proper) within an institutional culture of poor management,” the cable said.
“The results permit not only corruption but also a level of incompetence that is often indistinguishable from corruption.”
True, a majority of PNP personnel remain upright and untainted. But their daily exposure to corrupt, inefficient or incompetent police officials is a virus that will eventually infect and ravage them.
Which is why PNoy’s pronouncements defending PNP Chief Alan Purisima and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas have left many Filipinos dumbfounded.
Instead of taking them to task for the apparent breakdown in police discipline, PNoy downplayed the menace of rogue cops in the PNP and blamed the media for making such a big fuss out of it.
Clearly, PNoy won’t let his “tuwid na daan” policy get in the way of friendship and political alliances.
In the meantime, ordinary folks can only hope and pray that they never fall prey to these criminals with badges.