The Philippine National Police is currently laboring under a bad image, no thanks to a number of its officers and men who have managed to make the word “cop” seem synonymous to crime. Ordinary citizens are hesitant to deal with the police because they fear being shaken down or have more than once witnessed cases where the cops were the perps. Many have come to believe that the police are not mere protectors but are actually masterminds of criminal syndicates. This state of affairs has moved PNP Director General Alan Purisima to lament at a press conference on Friday: “With so many stories coming out, even members of the media are unwittingly being used because they are fed false information. A criminal is becoming the hero. It’s now the reverse.”
The PNP has been particularly battered, image-wise, in 2013. The rubout of 13 men in Atimonan, Quezon—which police claimed as a shootout involving an anti-illegal gambling mission—literally began the year with a bang; midway through it came the killing in San Pedro, Laguna, of two Ozamiz gang leaders in circumstances that were not only suspicious but also smacked of a gangland-style execution. In the first case, 25 policemen and soldiers are facing criminal charges for the killings. In the second (the subject of Purisima’s lament), 15 policemen have been relieved of their posts. “If the findings will show that they are liable, we will not hesitate to dismiss them from the service,” Purisima said.
And in the latest case in what seems to have become the PNP’s annus horribilis, there are allegations that policemen who recaptured drug lord Li Lan Yan and his wife had made off with money and drugs found in the couple’s San Juan home.
But beyond cooperating with investigators, Purisima has directed his men to pay close attention to five “hotspots,” namely Aurora-Edsa in Cubao, Quezon City; Monumento in Caloocan City; Baclaran and Edsa-Taft in Pasay City; and the University Belt in Manila. “There are five places in Metro Manila that we’ll focus on to reduce street crimes,” the PNP chief said earlier last week. “The public has to feel the presence of their police.” The hotspots are well-known to a citizenry that has become both anxious and indignant. Quezon City is known unofficially as the country’s “carjacking capital.” With its large student population, the University Belt is known for the plethora of petty street crimes, a haven for snatchers and pickpockets who target students’ mobile phones and bags. Motorists on Edsa are plagued not only by congestion but also by the “batang hamog,” roving bands of juveniles who raid vehicles stalled in traffic and terrorize drivers. The PNP wants to crack down on all that, especially considering that Metro Manila has the highest crime volume nationwide.
That sounds good, but one will wonder: Isn’t the police force supposed to be paying attention to all other areas as best as it can? The PNP needs to put the kibosh on crime wherever it rears its ugly head. It can start with making sure crimes are properly reported.
Last year, Purisima himself, then the PNP deputy director, said the sevenfold rise in reported crimes was a result of the institution’s having fixed a faulty reporting system in 2009. “The old system of subjective reporting was actually more problematic because we were not able to deploy our men appropriately,” he said, adding that the new, “blotter-based” system was more accurate. He also said that “the statistics don’t necessarily reflect the real picture,” that “the increase in the number of reported crimes may also mean that the people now trust the police more because they are coming forward to seek our help.”
That’s a bit of a leap, considering the reports of policemen doctoring their own blotters to show a drop in the number of crimes reported. The first thing needed is honesty: For the PNP to do its job properly, it has to at least accurately report the crimes being committed. “In an incident when there are fatalities, we look at the reasons behind it,” Purisima said on Friday. “Is it the culture [among the policemen]? We have to remove that culture. We have to do something about it.”
To clean up its image, the PNP has to produce results—proper enforcement of the law, swift punishment of its erring members, constant and easier access by the public to police protection.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.