By Atty. Joey D. Lina
The image of the police again took a beating last Wednesday. What drove social media into a frenzy? Corruption and cowardice.
Hours after the nation’s top cop broke down in tears on live TV amid allegations that police officials were linked to drug money, a story broke out in the evening news of two policemen scampering and hiding after hearing a gunshot, instead of protecting the victim and going after his killer.
It was deep frustration that people saw etched on the face of a sobbing Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa who was very eager to straighten up the PNP, but was at a loss on whom to trust amid revelations by Kerwin Espinosa, the alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord, of police officers involved in illegal drugs themselves.
“Gustong-gusto kong mareform ang PNP, ako’y hirap na hirap na (I want very much to reform the PNP, I’m having so much difficulty),” Dela Rosa said as he fought back tears during a Senate hearing. “I can’t blame the public if they are losing trust and confidence in the police because I myself, sabi ko nga, hindi mo na minsan alam kung sino ang pagkakatiwalaan (as I have said, you don’t know sometimes whom to trust).”
The story of Dela Rosa turning emotional during the Senate hearing on the alleged rubout of Albuera, Leyte, mayor Rolando Espinosa made primetime TV news, but what also caught the attention of the viewing public that night was a viral video of two rookie cops caught on CCTV scampering away to hide upon hearing a gunshot.
Video footage showed the two policemen seated inside a drugstore in Pasig when they heard a gunshot at about the same time a man ran inside and fell wounded on the floor. Instead of helping the man who later died, the cops hastily ran, with one of them stepping on the victim, to hide at the store’s counter.
The victim tried to squeeze himself where the policemen hid. The gunman entered the store but quickly withdrew upon seeing the policemen who were seen just sitting motionless on the floor at the other end of the store. They did not bother to go after the gunman to apprehend him.
PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the two were ordered to undergo commando training, including law enforcement refresher and military operations courses, with the elite Special Action Force.
“We want that our policemen be ready to fight, courageous and not cowards — true policemen who go to fight and not run away from a fight. That is the culture we want to develop in the PNP,” Carlos said. “Sa panahon ngayon, ang ating mga pulis ay dapat na maging sensitibo sa nangyayari sa kanilang paligid at laging unahin ang pagresponde sa mga nangangailangan (In these times, our policemen should be sensitive to what is happening around them and to prioritize responding to those in need). We have this sworn duty to serve and protect and we have to be more dedicated because it is our mandated task,” he added.
While it is certainly unfair to depict the typical policeman or even the entire police force as incapable of abiding by their sworn duty to serve and protect, on the basis of the failure of some, the grim reality is that the few who fail the people have the capacity to shape public perception.
Dela Rosa estimates that only one percent of about 160,000 PNP personnel could be responsible for the tarnished image of the police. But that one percent, or 1,600, can still be a staggering number in terms of their impact on public perception. When these few bad eggs are highlighted in the news, people could become cynics inclined to believe the entire basket to be rotten, especially with the PNP’s continued failure to cleanse its ranks.
The overwhelming majority of good cops who truly serve and protect, put their lives on the line, always strive to be morally upright and enforce the law with utmost professionalism, and do not want to tolerate colleagues who stray, certainly do not deserve a demoralizing image.
Neither does the public deserve a police force with a sullied image of lawmen who betray the trust bestowed on them when they are armed and equipped to uphold the law at all times. Taxpayers simply do not deserve corrupt or cowardly policemen, especially when there is no one else to run to.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson told Dela Rosa at the Senate hearing: “We can give you so much leeway. Pero ‘pag masyadong blatant na (But if it’s too blatant already), with impunity, the chief PNP should do something. ‘Pag hindi ka kumilos, mahahawa ang iba (If you don’t act, the others would be infected).”
Lacson has a good point. But it’s better to nip in the bud what could give rise to impunity. No leeway. The PNP has got to fix its broken windows.
The “broken windows” theory explains that vandals who see an abandoned building with a few broken windows decide to break more until all are destroyed and the whole building is in shambles. The theory on urban disorder has this premise: Minor crimes, if left unnoticed, will eventually escalate into bigger, more serious crimes.
If the PNP is really serious in cleansing its ranks, minor infractions must not simply be tolerated, lest a single broken window could lead to more destruction until the entire organization is in shambles.
E-mail: finding.lina @yahoo.com