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Two worlds

While the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership was badgering the creative minds behind the success of a popular television series whose plots depict the realities of life, mainly corruption in government including those in law enforcement, the very action of its men pointed to their lives imitating the very same storylines their officials have wanted changed.

Or worse, now they were a validation of the lives the TV series’ plots had imitated.

Top police officials have called unfair TV depictions of the men in uniform, who long ago were respected in the streets for being upright. But the incorruptible policeman is now rare, his image first tainted by the so-called kotong traffic cops and then the ninja cops whose involvement in drugs had earned the ire of President Duterte and now the policemen involved in palit-puri (sex for freedom).

Extortion has many faces and some — if not many — in the police force seem to have learned to master it like an art.

But art not only imitates life; it gives it color.

The kotong cop had sometimes been the bungling policeman loved and hated by jeepney drivers. Hated, because the kotong cop had always made him pay for the slightest road infraction and sometimes even with none. Loved, because for a coin, drivers were allowed to literally park their jeepneys and buses by the roadside to fill their vehicles with passengers, causing jams and commotion in long stretches of roads. Yes, all for a coin.
And then he learned to make bigger bucks. He had learned more money lie elsewhere. He had become a drug protector. He had become a pusher himself.

Other cops have learned to dilute recovered drugs from suspects, changed their haul with similar-looking chemicals to free the very same drug pushers they have captured — for a fee, of course — and sell back the same stash to make both their lives merry, until the next operation comes along.

President Duterte himself declared the involvement of five police generals in the drug trade. Scalawags have reached very high places if this will be validated.

The Chief Executive had raised a P5 million bounty for anyone who could bring him the head of a ninja cop.

Some of these cops, reports said, have participated in the oplans Tokhang and Double Barrel. But they have been involved in the trade of illegal drugs themselves, nonetheless.
And then, the palit-puri cops.

It is troubling that a cop arrested for raping the 15-year old daughter of a drug suspect had revealed it was a common practice among policemen to demand sex from suspects or relatives of suspects in exchange for their freedom or, sometimes we were told, better treatment of their loved ones in jail.

Common.

Standard practice, or so the nabbed cop said.

And then there was this case of two highway patrol cops arresting a woman for alleged illegal gambling. They forced her to do a sexual act right in the very patrol car they used to accost her. Yes, both of them.

Media reports claim a total of 56 cops were involved in sexual assault cases. These include catcalling and acts of lasciviousness to rape. Thirty-three of these cases have been documented. Thirteen victims of these cases were minors. Most of these cases were perpetrated by rookie cops.

“Extortion has many faces and
some — if
not many — in
the police force seem to have learned to master it like an art.

These are both unfortunate and revolting. Who would deny now that these bad eggs in the police force had tainted the PNP’s good image?

The PNP leadership wants this changed. But going after a TV show and while all these were taking place right inside police station walls (and patrol cars) deny the police force of its chance to be taken seriously in its bid to cleanse its image.

PNP chief Oscar Albayalde had warned the cleansing of the police force — all 180,000 of them — would be “chilling and deadly.”

“We will be as chilling, as deadly, in our cleansing program,” Albayalde said in August.

But revelations of major police follies continue even after Albayalde’s declaration of war against PNP’s bad eggs.

Meantime, we will wait. But with hopes the PNP cleansing will not take longer than the TV series the police leadership had wanted off the air. Because the longer it takes, the more plots there are to mix with the creative juices of the artistic minds to satiate their audience who could only see justice done in movies and television series.
Sad but true.

Reality check

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is beset with problems these days. Following news that a rookie cop was accused of raping a 16-year-old in exchange for her parents’ release, the public is reminded anew of the police’s continuing battle for its reputation.

It is easy to see — for example, in that rumored attempt to influence producers of the TV series Ang Probinsyano by threatening to sue, so the show would stop the “negative” depiction of the fictional police force — that the PNP is struggling mightily to pull its crumbling image together.

Recent opinion polls have revealed a growing distrust of the police force in light of its perceived conduct in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

The deaths of mostly urban poor Filipinos have been noted, pointing to an apparent inability to restrain trigger-happy fingers and, in recent controversies, other appendages.
What disgusts and disturbs mostly is the fact that cops who are sworn to protect and serve are the ones caught taking advantage of females, minors, persons in custody and even their fellow officers, such as the cops-in-training to be our future protectors.

Inefficiency is one thing — when police bungles cases, which has happened in the past — and criminality, another. It shows a mindset that is dangerous to us all, and for President Rodrigo Duterte, who has always made it clear that he has the police’s back, the challenge is to contain a monster that he may not be able to control.

We cannot avoid knowing about men of the force who gamble and do drugs because the President himself publicly berates them and threatens to send in the army to get them in line.

Military men, however, have also been known to lose it. Remember that soldier who went to an elementary school, shot a teacher while she was in class, killed himself and injured a student in the process? He could be prime example of a need for more psychologically sound men in uniform.

Bad apples can ruin a whole basket and they are kicking the police leadership in the thick of an insidious war, which is changing public perception of police corruption and ineptitude.

Bribery, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug trafficking — these are major crimes ruining their image, a far cry from the bumbling comedy depictions of decades past.

A report by globalsecurity.org explains the situation: “Corruption in the PNP and related agencies stems primarily from the unholy trinity of gambling, drugs and prostitution that beset law enforcement organizations worldwide.

However, PNP corruption is exacerbated by Philippine law, which gives local officials control over the appointment and dismissal of local PNP commanders, encouraging corrupt city mayors to make common cause with dishonest police commanders.”

What Ang Probinsiyano depicts, then, if it hits too close to home, should serve as the impetus to stop talking and start doing.

“Bad apples can ruin a whole basket and they are kicking the police leadership in the thick of an insidious war.

Clearly, sanctioning and transferring erring cops are not enough. Lackluster efforts to enforce discipline within the ranks will only hurt the entire institution in the long run, not to mention have an effect on the people’s safety and security.

In the same way, convincing the public with doubtful statistics to cushion the truth and avoid censure is only fooling themselves. Reality will eventually come to bite them where it hurts.

This could already be happening with the rising number of allegations against cops. What is the PNP doing about this problem? Is the police policing its own and why is this important?

Again, globalsecurity.org says it well: “Cops are among the most noticeable of public servants and daily exposure to corrupt, inefficient or badly managed police officials is a cancer upon the body politic.”

The “source of background information and developing news stories in the fields of defense, space, intelligence, WMD and homeland security” further said, “Failure to pursue reforms will further enfeeble the PNP, hamper the improvement of rule of law, lead to greater crime and corruption, lessen the peace and order needed for faster economic growth and undermine public safety and internal security in the face of existing terrorist activities and insurgencies.”

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