The number seemed odd, as if someone had arbitrarily made it up. But according to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the Philippine National Police needs 60,000 new policemen to meet its goals.
Now numbering 148,000, the PNP needs those additional personnel if it is to realize its ideal policeman-to-person ratio of 1:500—and it will take some time to reach that level. “With the PNP’s net hiring of 3,000 policemen every year, it may take 20 years before we fill the gap. That’s why we’re looking for ways [to recruit],” Roxas says of the target. “We cannot hire 60,000 policemen in a year, but certainly it should be more than 3,000 policemen in a year… We cannot do that overnight. Maybe we can just start a program and attain what we want in one or two years.”
Recruiting more cops will boost police visibility, which is seen to deter the “petty” crimes we see in alarming numbers today. More cops can mean less crime, and Roxas agrees. “As you know, the duties of policemen do not end at sundown,” he says in reference to how three shifts are required for police to be on duty the entire day.
Of course, it’s not just a matter of numbers but of quality. It goes without saying that care must be taken in recruitment and training so as not to add more “scalawags” to the force that continues to be tarnished by, among others, “kotong” and “patola” cops (meaning, respectively, those who mulct and cause the bar of police competence to plunge steeply). It seems intuitive that by recruiting younger officers, the PNP will be able to make up for the older members in its ranks who have turned corrupt. But there is more to that equation than mere addition.
In June, the PNP released findings that more rookies actually commit disciplinary offenses than ranking officers. Senior Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesperson, said most of the 66 officers dismissed in the first four months of the year held ranks from Police Officer 1 to 3. The numbers “show that the lower the rank, the higher the likelihood [of getting] involved in crime,” he said, validating the idea that many rookie cops see their entry into the PNP as a passport to “kotong” and other crimes.
“We see based on the trending that the problem starts at the training and selection process,” Cerbo said. “This is why the change has to be at the level of the PNP command… If the problem is only one individual, the problem is with him alone, but if it is rampant, then there is a problem with the commanders.”
Beyond a renewed emphasis on their proper training, both physical and mental, rookie cops can turn out to be catalysts for change instead of sources of trouble. But one fundamental change has to be made in order to help them resist the wiles of corruption. Police Officers 1 earn a monthly salary of only P14,834. Is this an amount that will allow them to perform their duties with competence and integrity, to comport themselves with dignity, let alone to support a family?
Police officers, whether fresh initiates or veterans on the beat, can take inspiration from the best of their ranks, whom President Aquino lauded at the graduation rites of the PNP Academy last March. In his speech, the President pointed out the declining crime rate and extolled the bravery displayed by the officers who, despite overwhelming enemy numbers, managed to defend their precincts in Davao del Norte and Agusan del Sur last year. “Follow the lead of those who came before and who continue to show courage and heroism for the country,” he told the graduates, adding that the standout cops had succeeded in changing for the better the way Filipinos viewed their police force.
It is clear that an essential change needs to happen before they actually arrive on the job. Aspiring lawmen have to be aware of what they stand for, of what they can be. They are required to be the opposite of corruption, not its representation, and they can be so right at the beginning. “As you graduate, you’ll be entering a system that will have you being looked up to instead of being talked about in whispers because of corruption,” Mr. Aquino said. “You have a unique opportunity to be one in taking the straight path.”
In many ways, a fresh start.