On Monday, Philippine National Police chief Director General Rolando dela Rosa announced that senior PNP officials would, starting that day, receive substantial cash bonuses from President Duterte for waging what the top cop called a “successful” war on drugs.
Star-rank officers would receive P100,000 each, he said, while he himself stood to gain P400,000—a rate of P100,000 for each of his four stars. On Tuesday, Dela Rosa backtracked, blamed the media for creating a controversy about the source of funding for the bonuses and, in a passive-aggressive fit, pledged to reward his officers with sacks of rice instead.
Also on Tuesday, Malacañang denied that the bonuses were “forthcoming.” Except that, in fact, and as a reliable source revealed, the cash bonuses were actually distributed on Monday, right after Dela Rosa’s announcement and press conference. Police generals received their P100,000 cash bonuses from Dela Rosa’s office in Camp Crame in Quezon City, the source said.
This makes the entire PNP bonus issue a scandal three times over.
In the first place, it does not speak to the highest ideals of the national police force—the country’s “finest,” to borrow the American term—that the “war on drugs” it is prosecuting will include monetary rewards.
While financial incentives are part of both good management practice and long government tradition, those who wage war on behalf of the people are best honored by the public officials who send them in harm’s way through symbols of high significance, such as medals for gallantry. The reasoning is simple, and powerful: Those who wage war on the nation’s behalf are not mercenaries, but public servants.
Yes, the children of a heroic soldier may enjoy tuition-free education courtesy of the government, and the widow may even enjoy the privilege of burial, upon her death, at a national shrine, but many people deem it unseemly for the soldier or the policeman to receive a considerable amount of money for doing his or her job in the first place.
What drew public outrage the moment Dela Rosa made the announcement, however, were two studies in stark contrast. The substantial cash bonuses were meant for senior officials, rather than for the lower-ranked policemen, the foot soldiers in the war on drugs, so to speak. And the size of the bonuses magnified the problem of the surviving kin of the war’s victims, many of whom could not even afford modest funeral expenses.
Secondly, Dela Rosa took back his controversial announcement when it became clear to him, or it was explained to him, that the controversy was undermining both the institutional reputation of the PNP and public support for the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. This was bad enough—does the country’s chief of police even take the time to consider the consequences of his statements?—but he went on to place the blame on the media.
He said the bonuses should have been distributed if not for reporters asking him, at the press conference he convened, where the money for the bonuses was coming from? “Kaso kinulit ng media, nagtatanong yung media saan daw ang source, saan galing? Hanggang sa sige lang tayo hintay, walang dumating [But the media kept on asking, the media asked what was the source, where would it come from? So we waited but nothing came].” This is patently ridiculous; he himself said the money would be distributed on Monday—meaning the cash was already in his office. But why blame the media for asking a perfectly reasonable question?
Thirdly, it quickly became clear that in fact the cash bonuses were distributed to senior PNP officials as scheduled—that is, on Monday. A police general acknowledged receiving a sealed envelope with P100,000 inside it. This means that Dela Rosa, the country’s principal law enforcement official, was lying through his teeth. This is conduct unbecoming of the PNP chief, and a scandal in its own right. Dela Rosa must man up, and apologize.
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