It pained me to watch the Kian Loyd de los Santos Senate hearing last Tuesday. The shabby appearance and demeanor of those pot-bellied cops said it all with regard to the quality of policemen walking our streets today. To think that both have been in the service for just two years.
PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa and Senator Panfilo Lacson, himself a former PNP Chief, struggled to find words so as not to be insulting to the two policemen. But as they say, a picture speaks louder than a thousand words. If those policemen exemplify the kind of cops that we have in our midst, then this country is in a lot of trouble.
When I left the service, there were about 115, 000 police personnel. Today there are 175,000 according to PNP Chief Dela Rosa—and growing very fast. It stands to reason that if we cannot improve the quality of policemen real soon, we will have half-baked law enforcers wearing police uniforms and carrying guns. The public will be more afraid of instead of considering them friends and protectors.
The trouble with reform, however, is where to start and how to select the people to do what has to be done. Reforming the PNP is long and arduous work. Dela Rosa during the Senate hearing said the PNP needs to train its own recruits. This is of course true but there are other equally important issues that need changes. With the short terms of most PNP Chiefs, this does not allow for much work to be done. Any reform will have to be one step at a time until a desired objective is achieved.
Any PNP Chief should concentrate on one achievable goal and the next should do the same—and so on. Personnel management is one area. Operations is another. Training, as Bato dela Rosa also said, is very important in moulding the character of the Police. Poor training equals ineffective policemen walking our streets.
When the local Police and the Constabulary were merged into the PNP in 1992, we who came from the Constabulary were thinking of imparting the Constabulary traditions formed after 91 years of existence but as it is, the practices of the local Police seem to have swallowed all those old practices that we old fogies from the Constabulary were all proud of. I used to be the District Director of the Northern Police District covering the towns of Malabon, Navotas, and the cities of Caloocan and Valenzuela. The Police culture that I found there compared to other places—for instance the Cordilleras—spells the difference between night and day.
During the Senate hearing, Senator Lacson was suggesting some kind of rotational assignment to avoid familiarization. But there are other considerations, as Bato dela Rosa tried to point out, and he is right. This is because the PNP has for some time embraced the Police doctrine of Community Policing. This simply means that if a policeman lives in the community, there is a better chance that he will work harder to maintain peace in the community where he lives.
But as can be seen in many instances, this is not actually happening. Instead, we find abusive policemen. In the old Constabulary, when someone is recruited, it was for a period of three years after which that person can again apply for reenlistment. If the record of that individual is bad, he can be denied reenlistment. With this system, bad eggs can be removed easily. There was a system of automatic cleansing.
Today in the PNP, this process was stopped. Once a person is accepted into the police service, he retires at 56 years old unless sooner terminated for cause which is hard. The old system should be brought back. Maybe not every three years but five. This way, there will be a system of the PNP cleansing itself of undesirables easily. There will also be an incentive for enlisted personnel not to commit any irregularity that will deny them reenlistment.
There are also other areas to look at. For instance, the PNP law of 1991 is in need of amendment because of its rigidity and inflexibility. The law does not give the National Police Commission and the PNP much authority to make important changes if there is a need. All must pass through Congress like the matter of training PNP recruits. Bato dela Rosa is actually not the first to point this out. Even during our time in the PNP, the leadership tried to change this anomaly. Our political leaders may also want to try to make the organization less political.
The appointment of the PNP Chief is an example. During the time of President Aquino, he selected General Purisima largely because he was his shooting buddy. Bato dela Rosa was allegedly chosen because the President was the principal sponsor during his wedding. In the case of these two selections, because both were relatively junior, most of the senior officers ahead of them were relieved and posted to unimportant retirement positions. A lot of talent was therefore wasted, not to mention the effect on morale of these assignments which is important if we want to make the organization function efficiently. Maybe there should be a better process of selecting the best to be PNP Chief.
Another is the possibility of outsourcing what has to be done to improve and professionalize the PNP and not limit the reform process within the organization. Oftentimes, it is almost impossible to make changes from within because of entrenched organizational self-interests.