By FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JEJOMAR C. BINAY
The Senate hearings into the abuse and misuse of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law has uncovered a bigger can of worms: the alleged complicity of the country’s top cop in the so-called recycling of illegal drugs by “ninja cops.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief has since resigned ahead of his mandatory retirement on November 8. But the controversy has left a gaping wound in the institution, pitting officer against officer, PMAyer against PMAyer. It has also put in serious doubt, and perhaps damaged beyond salvation, the administration’s war on drugs.
This controversy is far from over. The burden weighs heavily on the next PNP chief to assure a disenchanted public – especially a growing segment that has become cynical and distrustful of the war on drugs – that the police force should continue to deserve their trust.
He would also need to institute reforms within the institution, which is a bigger challenge. The conventional thinking is that those who aspire to lead the country’s police force are themselves products of the system. It would take a reform-minded police general with a deep commitment to the PNP and its values to preside over the demise of the system that facilitated his rise to the top.
The revelations at the Senate has given us an insight into the “bata-bata” system within the ranks of the PNP. This system, not unique to the police force, breeds and feeds sycophancy at its most benign. At its worst, it engenders corruption and abets criminal behavior within the ranks of organizations. Law enforcement agencies like the PNP are not impervious to the worst effects of the “bata-bata” system.
In this case, the allegation is that the superior officer tolerated the shenanigans of his lower-ranking officers who filed false reports and misdeclared the value of illegal drugs seized in a raid. Needless to state, the undeclared drugs were plowed back into the streets and the profits divvied up by the team, with the superior officer, as alleged by one witness, supposedly admitting he received a “little” piece of the action.
As a human rights lawyer during martial law, I have had personal experience with law enforcers planting evidence and filing false reports against suspects. When I resumed my law practice after my term ended as Vice President, I handled a case where an entire family was detained for months on the basis of reports and testimonies given by policemen later proven in court as totally false.
But giving false testimonies and recycling drugs are not the only stain on the PNP’s reputation.
For the past three years, the PNP has been waging a drug war tainted by extra-judicial killings and the rampant violations of the rule of law. When the drug war was at its infancy, a former PNP chief, now a legislator, spoke in a cavalier manner when asked by media if suspected pushers deserve due process: “Yes, they have the right to remain silent, forever.”
Up to now, the drug war has not resulted in the arrest of major drug lords. Instead, it has produced a staggering body count that has alarmed even the international community. What we have are suspected street-level pushers from poor communities either killed by masked assassins or by policemen. The oft-repated reason was that the suspect fought back, or “nanlaban.”
As pointed out by Artikulo Tres, a group of human rights lawyers where I serve as an adviser:
“The war against drugs is a war against the poor. It does not matter if you are a child or a senior citizen, able-bodied or infirm. The poor are easy targets even if guilt or innocence has not been established in the proper courts. Due process, under this administration, is apparently reserved only for kin, the wealthy and the well-connected.”
Also noticeable is a marked shift in the demeanor of the PNP leadership. Sadly, we no longer have police generals who carry their uniforms and their ranks with dignity and decorum. Coarse and abusive behavior have become commonplace, especially when television cameras are around.
It seems we have reached a point where the police, once respected in communities as protectors and enforcers of the law, are perceived as lawbreakers. The PNP is in need of genuine reforms and deserves better leadership. The people deserve a better police force.
Tags: Jejomar C. Binay