The night watchman
If the basic role of the government is to be the night watchman, then we should sleep soundly. A reliable night watchman looks after the safety of the community while the populace sleeps.
Earlier this week, President Duterte convened his team, physically and by speaker phone, to discuss what was clearly a very serious problem: the reliability of a police force contaminated by so many scalawags. The meeting dragged into the wee hours, appropriately covered by journalists holding vigil at the Palace.
In characteristic fashion, the President made quick decisions and barked orders in staccato fashion. He ordered police operations against illegal drugs suspended while the Philippine National Police is being rehabilitated. He declared that the effort to crush the apparatus of illegal drugs in the country would continue until the end of his term. He wanted his team to explore the possibility of reviving the Philippine Constabulary. He asked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take the lead in the conduct of the “war on drugs,” with support coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He asked the Army to take a role in the effort to combat illegal drugs.
Most dramatically, the President pronounced that the PNP is 40 percent contaminated by unscrupulous elements. That is a startling figure. It suggests a very sick organization. It suggests that the process of cleaning up the PNP might be a long and painful one.
Hours after receiving their marching orders, PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa dissolved the anti-illegal drugs unit of the police. He formed a 100-man team of trusted police officers to conduct the internal investigation of suspect policemen. Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon began coordinating with the AFP on the exact role it might play to help the effort against illegal drugs. Esperon once headed the Army and served as chief of staff of the AFP.
The nocturnal meeting earlier this week was prompted by the case of Korean national Jee Ick-joo. He was kidnapped and brutally murdered late last year although the facts of the case became clear only over the past few weeks. It turns out that the men behind this dastardly crime belonged to the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group.
Over the past few days, more evidence surfaced linking policemen to kidnapping and extortion activities using the war on drugs as cover. During the Senate hearing on the subject, Sen. Panfilo Lacson exhibited a video of policemen planting evidence moments before a raiding party descended. Several other cases of extortion were brought to light by that brave anticrime activist Teresita Ang-See.
Clearly, we have a problem with the PNP. Much as our people appreciated the campaign against illegal drugs and the diminished crime rate that came as its byproduct, the kidnapping and murder of Jee brought serious damage to the PNP’s credibility. Our people want a “cleaner” PNP to handle the job.
There is no timetable announced for cleaning up the PNP. Judging by Dela Rosa’s response, however, we can expect swift action on the part of the police leadership. It could take years to complete the rehabilitation of the PNP but that does mean the campaign against illegal drugs will be shelved. With the PDEA at the lead and units from the AFP lending support, that campaign will continue. What is important is that scalawags are kept from taking advantage of the campaign to do their dastardly deeds.
Our people have been wary of possible abuses committed by scalawags in uniform. Many of the vigilante killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs are suspected to have been undertaken by rogue police officers. The case of Jee Ick-joo bolsters public suspicion. Our citizens are now demanding that the cleanup of the PNP be pursued with the same intensity as the war on drugs itself.
President Duterte shows responsiveness to the concerns of our citizens by convening that late-night meeting and issuing the orders he did. The corrupt police officers will be weeded out and the most infected units of the PNP dissolved. The President gives them no quarter.