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A police state of mind

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año is a busy man these days.

His latest crusade, however, is not against illegal drugs, terrorists, murderers, rapists or crooked cops. No, the good secretary is going after a TV show, which he says is demoralizing the ranks of the Philippine National Police by portraying a corrupt police force and government.

In a statement issued Friday, one of his subordinates warned that the department would “seriously consider filing legal action and imposing sanctions” against the show Ang Probinsiyano, which airs on ABS-CBN, if it continues with its “grossly unfair and inaccurate portrayal” of the police force.

Several aspects of this crusade give us pause.

First, it suggests that the secretary and the PNP chief working under him are having difficulty distinguishing between fact and fiction. This is disconcerting because most folk can tell that a TV show, as realistic as it might be, is still a work of fiction. And, while the “corrupt police and rotten system” trope is a staple of many crime movies and police procedurals, this is the first time we have heard of a Cabinet member or the top police official demanding that a TV show change its plot to suit them.

Could it be that they have grown so accustomed to high officials peddling fiction that they can no longer distinguish it from fact?

Second, the secretary’s suggestion that a mere TV drama could demoralize an entire police force does not speak well for the men and women in uniform, or the leadership he is showing. If the police are so easily distressed, we are truly in trouble.

Third, the brouhaha over Ang Probinsyano gives us a clear idea of just how little the Interior secretary and his police chief regard the constitutionally guaranteed right of free expression. In their view, it seems, you are free to say what you wish, as long as it does not offend them.

Finally, the secretary’s focus on a TV show suggests there are no more worthy targets—let’s call them criminals—to which the DILG and PNP can turn their attention. We can put off arresting those who massacred nine farmers in Negros Occidental last month, or the gunmen who killed a human rights lawyer working for their association this month. Who cares about the criminals who smuggled in P11 billion worth of shabu? The authorities clearly have better things to do with their time.

Certainly, this was the same impression we came away with, when the PNP saved us from 15 security guards at a Makati mall, who had the temerity to wear costumes that made them look like the guards of Buckingham Palace for Christmas. Never mind that it was most likely the mall owners that dressed them in such a manner, or that a security guard doesn’t earn very much.

For their offense, each of the 15 guards was fined P10,000 for failing to wear the proper uniform. Mall owners that insist on the use of costumes, on the other hand, will not be fined because the PNP has no jurisdiction over them.

This sense of “justice” is enough to make us weep.

Topics: Editorial , A police state of mind , Interior and Local Government , Secretary Eduardo Año , Philippine National Police , Ang Probinsiyano , ABS-CBN
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