EDITORIAL: Seriously damaged police image

If there is an appropriate statement that best describes the status of the Philippine National Police (PNP), it is the public perception that it has become a damaged agency, its image grimly beaten by accusations that have add more injury and harm to its already ruined credibility.

In 2023 alone, three incidents that have received national attention have also put in jeopardy whatever trustworthiness is left with the PNP. Though the cases have their provenance early on, the impact it has created further debases the integrity of the national police.

First, there was the series of ambushes leading to the killing or critical wounding of high-profile politicians. Though a few of the cases have been linked to personal grudge and drugs, the way these incidents have occurred define the way the PNP has been pursuing some of its most important obligations, especially in protecting public servants and apprehending peace and order adversaries before they can make a strike.

The incidents were preceded by the call of the interior and local government secretary, with the concurrence of the PNP chief, for all full-fledged colonels and star-ranked police officer to submit courtesy resignations as part of the plan to cleanse the agency of cops who are deeply involved in drugs and related activities.

Second, during the recent Senate hearing, the status of Negros Oriental as a haven for private armies and political killings has finally been discussed without fear of the unknown. The expose started after the late governor Roel Degamo was assassinated by former military servicemen who had become part of the private militia of a supposedly notorious politico.

Based on the official PNP report, from 2018 to the present, murders and assassinations in the province reached over 500 deaths, a figure that really stunned those who heard it. If records from 2011 to 2018 are included, the killing spree is likely to hit 1,000 cases. In contrast, the slay records of the most prosperous provinces around the archipelago, assessed separately, do not even come close to Negros Oriental’s figures.

Perhaps the worst case is the claim that generals are involved in the cover-up of the 990-kg shabu haul. A vlogger even declared the whole drug scandal is part of a ‘PNP triad’ and that the generals seen in the CCTV footage could be participants.

Viewing a CCRV, similar to seeing a boob tube video, may be interpreted either way and there’s no arguing the top police officials who allowed the removal of the handcuff of the suspect in the drug bust may have committed protocol violations.

The litany of abuses strongly blamed on police indecency, dishonesty, and fraud may be a manifestation that something is really going on within the national police structure. Even the argument that majority of the members of the PNP organization are incorruptible covers only a certain segment of the police body. Public perception about the police is always on the belief that after all the benefits granted to the cops, especially the doubling of their salaries, dishonesty remains a personal matter and not an institutional malady.

Of course, there is always a positive side to each negative reaction people have on the violations law enforcers commit. Every organization has its share of the crooks, which normally belong to the minority; nevertheless, it can destroy a well-intentioned institution.

As for the PNP, the damage created as a result of the scandals that have since gained national notoriety are things that are difficult to rectify over the short term. With the police organization getting more than the insults it received, the recent exposes of cops being involved in high-profile crimes cannot be addressed by simple amends. A through revamp is more reasonable than just allowing the corrupt law enforcers to fade into the sunset without being punished for their wrongdoings. The police owe much to the taxpayers in terms of decorum.

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