Cleansing the police force

"It takes only one bad egg to tarnish the reputation of an entire institution. "


Should we believe the recent news report that the Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Gamboa, has dismissed no less than 6,000 rogue cops in just nine months?

If true, that's an average of 666 cops given their walking papers every month and told to surrender their badges and issued firearms to their immediate supervisors.

And if there are 209,00 cops all in all and 6,000 have been given the boot since October, that's nearly three percent of the PNP's total number of personnel.

We've always been told that rogue cops are only a handful. But while 6,000 may be a handful compared to the current 209,000 personnel, that's still a big number who have been engaged in wrongdoing and abuse of authority and therefore truly deserve to be kicked out.

After all, it takes only one bad egg to tarnish the reputation of the entire institution.

The war against criminality, whether of the organized kind or the street-level type, requires men and women who will discharge their sworn duty "to serve and protect" with utmost responsibility.

Gen. Gamboa should therefore continue the cleansing process in the organization to weed out erring cops and thus restore the trust and confidence of the public in the institution.

Policemen involved in criminal activities, such as the illegal drug trade and extortion, deserve not only to be kicked out but also brought behind bars where they belong.

But throwing the book at scalawags and misfits should just be one aspect of the cleansing drive.

The other aspect, from where we sit, is to make it impossible for the totally unqualified to enter the police force in the first place by making new applicants go through a rigorous selection process to determine their fitness for the job of law enforcement.

This would ensure that only those who can take the stress that goes with the job and be able to refuse the temptation to get rich quick would be allowed to wear a police badge.

That would also see to it that everyone who enters the police force would really be a no-nonsense law enforcer, not a closet lawbreaker.

Dialogue needed to resolve South China Sea dispute

As far as Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is concerned, it makes no sense for the Philippines to raise before the UN General Assembly in September the arbitral ruling that we won against China in 2016 four years ago: "We won it already, why would you want to re-litigate something that you won?”

Locsin has called the arbitral ruling “non-negotiable” and urged China to comply with it. But he cautioned that said bringing of the case to the United Nations “is a question of numbers” which the Philippines does not have.

Veteran diplomat Reynaldo O. Arcilla, who served as Philippine ambassador to Thailand, Laos, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bangladesh, and was also the dean of the College of International Relations of the Lyceum of the Philippines University for nearly 12 years, supported that position in a recent column in another broadsheet.

He asked: "How can we now insist on the implementation of the ruling (of the Permanent Court of Arbitration or PCA) when China did not agree to or participate in the arbitration proceedings, which is a conditio sine qua non for the ruling to be valid?"

At the same time, however, he said that does not mean "that China has the right under international law, e.g., the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to claim or seize territories in the South China Sea that do not belong to it."

From another direction, Stefan Talmon, in a paper published in the Journal of International Dispute Settlement in May 2017 titled "The South China Sea Arbitration and the Finality of ‘Final’ Awards"  argued that the PCA ruling in 2016, described as "final," cannot be really called as such since "finality does not preclude an appeal to another arbitral tribunal or to an international or domestic court; otherwise, the express exclusion of an appeals process would be superfluous."

And further: "The provision that the award is final also does not exclude the arbitral tribunal itself from correcting its award, from interpreting its award in case of controversy between the parties as regards the interpretation or manner of implementation of the award, or from revising the award in special circumstances when new facts of decisive importance have been discovered."

Talmon concludes: "Arbitral awards are not a source of international law; at best, they are a subsidiary means for the determination of the rules of international law. There is no formal system of precedent in international law. Judicial and arbitral decisions are thus not binding on other parties in future cases, even before the same court or tribunal. No other court or tribunal, be it the ICJ (International Court of Justice), the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), or another Annex VII arbitral tribunal, is bound to follow the arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea Arbitration in its interpretation and application of the UNCLOS. While arbitral awards, depending on the standing, expertise and experience of the arbitrators, may be persuasive or even authoritative they are by no means conclusive statements of the law. Thus, while the award of 12 July 2016 may be the final decision in the arbitration between the Philippines and China concerning their disputes in the South China Sea, it is by no means the final word on the legal questions raised by these disputes."

While there's wide disagreement on the validity of the PCA ruling, perhaps the next best thing at this point is to let diplomacy take its course. I understand that the Philippine and China have already in place a Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) that meets twice a year to discuss issues related to the South China Sea dispute. It might be good to ask them what agreements have been reached since 2016, and the contentious issues that need to be resolved.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Philippine National Police chief , General Archie Gamboa , rogue cops , Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. , South China Sea
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