The Philippine National Police spokesperson appeared to live up to his name the other day, shocking the public with provocative, even cavalier, remarks. But perhaps Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac was merely giving voice to a sentiment shared by some, if not many, graduates of the Philippine Military Academy: that they should retain control of the PNP.
From reports, Sindac did it in unusual fashion. He likened both the PMA, the country’s traditional source of military leaders, and the Philippine National Police Academy or PNPA, the relatively new institution training the next generation of leaders for the police, to popular dishes, and expressed the deceptively simple hope that, maybe, variety was the spice of PNP life.
“We should define the PMA as a leadership school [that] develops leaders,” he was quoted as saying. “The PNP would like to avail itself of the leaders being produced by the PMA.” Sounds innocent enough. “The PNPA is also a leadership school, but maybe it’s not enough. We want to have a variety of [officers’ schools] … so it will not be all fried chicken. We will also have crispy pata (deep-fried pork hock).”
Now that sounds positively tempting.
But it is a temptation to be resisted. The 1987 Constitution explicitly calls for the creation of a police force that is “national in scope and civilian in character.” Like many other constitutional innovations, the civilian character of the PNP is a direct response to the abuses and excesses of the Marcos years.
The militarization of Philippine society that martial law made possible included the police among its first targets; the result was the assimilation of what was called the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police into the Armed Forces. That integration hastened the transformation of the PC-INP into one of the most brutal instruments of military rule, and forever confused the imperatives of law enforcement with the insidious, often manufactured demands of “national security.”
It is utterly dismaying to hear the PNP spokesperson articulate a viewpoint steeped—or stewed, to extend his food metaphor—in that unfortunate confusion.
Sindac, himself a PMA graduate, also referenced the Local Government Code of 1991 as a possible obstacle to his crispy-pata fantasy. It disallows the hiring of PMA alumni for law enforcement positions. But that landmark law traces its bracing sense of precaution to the Constitution, and to the same martial-law trauma that shaped the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. How strange that Sindac mentions the Local Government Code, but not the Constitution. Don’t PMA cadets study the basic law of the land?
But there is more to the controversy than merely the unsettling spectacle of a spokesperson putting his boot in his mouth.
A letter written to the chief of the Philippine National Police and to the chief of staff of the Armed Forces (as it happens, both PMA graduates or “cavaliers,” in the romantic language of the military academy), explained an initiative by PMA alumni to propose the assignment of PMA graduates to the PNP in sharp, even chilling, terms.
“Its intention is to keep the PMA breed in control—both of the AFP and especially the PNP, which has a fading number of cavaliers,” wrote Rameses Victorious Villagonzalo, the legal counsel of PMA Cebu Squad Inc.
Sindac has since distanced himself and the PNP leadership from Villagonzalo’s extreme position, saying it “did not necessarily” represent their views. (He has also written a letter to the editor, printed in this issue, saying “the proposition of readmitting PMA graduates into the PNP” was still under study. Next time, however, he should avail himself of more resolute language.)
But is there a real difference between the view that the PNP, despite the PNPA’s two decades of existence, still needs the services of the PMA, and the view that “the PMA breed” must retain control of the second largest government agency? Language and food metaphors aside, they are both confused, shockingly, about the true role of the police.
Not national security, carried out by soldiers, but law enforcement, upheld by civilian police.