HomeCommentaryIncompetence: getting way too old, way too annoying

Incompetence: getting way too old, way too annoying

Damage control does little to save an institution already neck deep in a muck of their own making

Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas is not exactly the “beau ideal” deserving of the title PNP Chief.

If not for the trophy label and rank of general, one could easily mistake him for a stand-up funnyman who, more than once, cancelled on a gig for not being able to fit through the door.

The president, however, remains confident of the general’s ability and skill. What expertise in particular one can only speculate.

If Rodrigo Duterte had in mind Sinas’ bloodstained record as ringleader of anticommunist operations in Negros Oriental, where assassinations spiked in 2019, even murdering 14 in one day, that would fall more under the category of vampiric sadism than genius.

Sinas’ aerobic dancing while seated on a chair, however strenuous, would’ve been apt as it would not require exponential suspension of disbelief.

The PNP’s lingua franca of whitewashes and smokescreens—and what the public justifiably assume as a cavalcade of incompetence—is getting way too old, way too annoying. Much too much that I think it’s time we deal with this head-on.

The Christine Angelica Dacera supposed “rape-slay” case is one such example. Suffice it that the investigation took to burning the candle at both ends, claiming the case as “solved” while hardly garnering conclusive evidence to prove it. No different from a gnawing sense of kidney failure keeping you up in the wee hours.

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That’s like having our immune system ravaged by an autoimmune disease, or COVID-19 our lungs. Thanks to this relentless inability to do things right, this country is being shoved right into the very jaws of an intubation machine.

Spare us the damage control spiels, please. Think about it: if someone’s immune system—the body’s security force—suffers compromise, there is little one can do to keep it from being attacked by disease.

The same is true with a police force playing footsie with gremlins. All that jabber and burble about peace and order as a paramount requisite for society to function fall flat in light of this breakdown in discipline within the PNP.

There is little one can hope for when the very institution tasked to keep the peace turns its fangs against its own people. All this with the president’s nod.

Policemen manning a checkpoint in the Philippine capital display signs urging people to heed the call to stay home as the government continues to implement an “enhanced community quarantine” across most of the country on March 31. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

There’s no denying that our police agencies had become a “dead” zone. Their own marketing mills admit to killing a little over 8,000 in police operations nationwide.

That’s a mere mosquito bite when set next to the assassination figure roiled by Amnesty International—roughly 30,000. That’s enough to fill the seating capacity of the Saitama Super Arena in the town of Chūō-ku, Japan.

With a police force going to the dogs (apologies to dogs and all lovers of canine), it’s no surprise the country feels mortally sick. Sick of incompetence, sick of whitewashes, too sick of internet memes with Sinas making a laughing stock of himself.

Serious problems plague us each passing day, what with COVID-19 mutating to a second ultra-infectious strain, to say little of lawmakers—former PNP chief Sen. Ronald dela Rosa no less—inching his way into the Constitution to alter it.

If any altering ought to be done, it’s the Philippine National Police that needs reforms badly.

And since we’re on the subject of reforms, are you aware that the PNP has had rape as a monkey on its back since Duterte took office? Incidents of rape involving officers of the PNP spiked from four (4) in 2016 to 15 in 2017 and nine (9) in 2018. These are not even the updated stats. Some reports say as much as 43 officers had been involved.

Rapist cops didn’t even spare one of their own.

One such case was sex via extortion. CNN Philippines reported in 2018: “After coming under fire for a suspected ‘rape culture’ among its personnel, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has apprehended another set of erring officers who reportedly molested their suspects. A police report Wednesday detailed the arrest of PO1 Jayson Portuguez y Cudiamat and PO1 Severiano Montalban III who allegedly extorted sexual intercourse from a female suspect in exchange for her release.”

The 2018 Philippines Human Rights Report paints a disturbing picture of how cops treat women in custody:

“Reports of rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody continued. The Center for Women’s Resources reported eight cases of rape involving 16 police officers from January 2017 to July 2018. The Center noted that many of the rapes occurred in connection with police antidrug operations.”

Policemen secure the perimeter of a community in Manila’s Navotas district during an anti-narcotics operation in 2017. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Based on figures culled by ABS-CBN in 2018 from PNP Internal Affairs, rape involving PNP officers stretched from ranks of PO1 to Police Senior Inspector, Police Chief Inspector, even Police Superintendent. Apparently, women’s organizations are hard-pressed at bringing the figures up-to-date.

And we haven’t even reached the real horror story. One report said most of the victims of rape and sexual harassment via cop belong to the age bracket 17 and below.

It’s safe to assume that’s a mere fraction of the untold numbers of unreported cases. Unreported for fear of reprisal from police.

In this neck of the woods, police reprisal is real. Just four months within lockdown, sometime July 2020, two police Staff Sergeants were charged with rape and murder after a 15-year-old girl filed a rape complaint against the same cops in Ilocos Sur.

Inquirer reports:“They were accused of killing the victim on July 2, days after she lodged a complaint against the same policemen who allegedly raped her and her 18-year-old cousin, after they were arrested for violation of the curfew while attending a birthday party in San Juan town on June 27.”

How these panned out in court, if at all these cases reached the bench, is anybody’s guess.

It’s apparent that critics hardly need to paint an ugly picture of the police force. It’s doing a pretty good job at it without anyone’s help.

This begs the question: how can the PNP solve the crime of rape, more so the supposed rape which had Christine Angelica Dacera in its sights, if the same canker plagues the institution right within its very bones?

An even greater problem–the PNP’s idea of why rape happens—oftentimes blaming the victim for causing the crime, adds to the institution’s growing list of embarrassing gaffes.

Damage control does little to save an institution already neck deep in a muck of their own making. While I am aware that good cops do exist, those silent enough not to make a difference, I believe there is no better time to take the bull by the horns than now.

Reforms designed to last, one that will dig deep into the tumor and gangrene plaguing the PNP and extricate them, must start from within. Should convincing top brass prove ineffective, then the younger officers must not only speak out but organize.

By organize, I mean gather the numbers, not stage a coup. Say no to orders that go against the institution’s mandate, why not? The courage of one or two may not suffice. To organize, bring dissatisfied voices together, calling out for immediate reforms, say no to instructions to execute extrajudicial killings, might just be the start of something good.

Remember, however that reforms made to last offer no elbowroom for mere polish of a once tainted reputation. True reform comes from a change of heart—individually and as a collective. Easier said than done, I know, but not impossible.

While I’m totally aware of the repercussions of disobedience and insubordination in an organization built on the time-tested principle of the command chain, it is nonetheless crucial for efforts at reform to find their moorings in the courage needed to rebuild integrity.

Unless, of course, our cops are more than contented to have their names and badges dragged in the poop pit by the supposedly unscrupulous few.

Should that be the case, history owes their names not even a modicum of respect.

Joel Pablo Salud is an editor, journalist and the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of LiCAS.news.

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