Searching for the soul
There is no debate about it. The Philippine National Police is in crisis. The interior secretary admitted that much. PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa shed tears publicly in exasperation. President Duterte minced no words when he stood face to face with scalawags on Palace grounds last Tuesday.
Scandals caught our police organization in a lurch. The entire PNP was feverishly waging the war on illegal drugs when incidents of criminality involving police officers broke to the fore. Those incidents threw a cloud of doubt over what was supposed to be a just war. The war, supported by the majority of our people, had to be put on hold.
The kidnapping and murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo by police officers was the last straw. It gave substance to suspicions that rogue policemen were extorting and killing in the shadow of the campaign against illegal drugs. Jee was strangled to death right at the headquarters of the PNP. The murderers extorted money from the widow even after the victim was killed. The body of the crime was conveniently cremated and the ashes flushed down the toilet to conceal evidence of the misdeed.
Jee was not only murdered, he was also desecrated. We apologized for what happened. The President dispatched his chief legal adviser to Seoul to personally apologize. We are all stained by this terrible deed. The least we can do, and the only thing the Korean government asks of us, is to see justice done in the speediest manner.
It is not only the Jee murder that has stained the police. A video of policemen planting drug evidence moments before a raid has surfaced. Stories of Korean tourists seized, tortured and extorted from by unscrupulous policemen have been documented.
Chief Bato’s first response to evidence of police involvement in the Jee murder was to summarily disband the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, the unit spearheading the war on drugs and to which Jee’s murderers belonged. The murder was most heinous and public disappointment in the police large.
President Duterte took the government’s response a step further. The entire PNP was withdrawn from the antidrug campaign and ordered to do an honest-to-goodness cleanup. For good measure, the National Bureau of Investigation, too, was grounded and ordered to stay away from drug-related cases. The entire burden of the war on drugs is now left to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and its small army of agents.
Over 40 percent of the PNP, by the President’s estimate, is contaminated by corruption if not outright criminality. The task of weeding out criminality in police ranks is now left to an elite counterintelligence unit being formed by Chief Bato. Obviously we are in dire need of an incorruptible unit like this one to police the police. The work will not be easy and the results will not be as speedy as we might like it to be.
For many Filipinos, it seems the PNP has lost its soul, condensed in its motto “To Serve and Protect.” We cannot rely on the police organization to heal itself. The damage is deep. The challenge is overwhelming. It is an institution that needs help.
Searching for the PNP’s soul should therefore be a community matter. Every citizen must now contribute to helping rebuild our national police. We can do so by helping identify wrongdoing and seeing remedial action done. We have, by collective effort, to nurse the PNP back to institutional health.
We all have a stake in seeing the rehabilitation through. We all need a functioning and reliable police force. Or else we will be at the mercy of the malevolent.
We all need a dependable and capable national police, however damaged the PNP might be at the moment. Without this precious institutional asset, our communities will all be vulnerable. Imagine a world where common citizens bear the burden of maintaining order. The very thought is unbearable.