"The PNP can no longer afford this."
It is not often that a single act of brutality by one policeman could trigger so much condemnation from every sector of our society. In an altercation with his neighbors, Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nueszca shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony in a fit of anger.
The act was totally unjustified. Nuezca did it so nonchalantly that is why the outrage was universal. He is now facing double murder charges and is in jail. It is doubtful whether he will ever be a free man again. He is also in danger of losing all his service benefits.
The killing has resulted in calls for meaningful Police reform and the resurrection of the death penalty which has been dormant for a while. About eight senators now appear to support the restoration.
Immediately after the incident, the PNP issued a statement that there is no need for PNP reform because the incident is isolated. Unfortunately, it is hardly an isolated incident. Police abuse has happened in the past and will happen again unless there is change. By and large, however, the vast majority of police personnel are doing their duty as best as they could. But this incident demonstrates how one deed by a single policeman can easily erase the many good accomplishments of the PNP accumulated over a period of time.
The PNP can no longer afford this. This is why the PNP must be composed of officers and men who are thoroughly professional, competent, respected and equal to the demanding job of maintaining law and order. The Police, like the military, is always in need of reform but it is very difficult to reform. To say otherwise is a huge mistake. The Police must continuously change in order to be relevant to the times. Failure to do so will consign the Police to Jurassic policing. The PNP leadership must understand that reform is a never-ending process. Every time an act of barbarity is committed by someone in the force, there is a need to look very closely into it. In this case, Even the President who is so tough about people getting killed was also outraged.
How, for instance, was Nuezca able to be promoted in rank when he has been charged so many times for misconduct in the performance of his duties? Maybe there is need to look at the promotional system in the PNP if people like him can be promoted so easily. It is time for the PNP to start implementing a merit-based promotional system instead of the old practice wherein all that a policeman needs to do is wait for his turn to be promoted. During our time in the service, the PNP strength was about 110,000. Today, it is 205,000-strong and increasing by leaps and bounds. With the way the PNP strength is increasing, there is bound to be some deterioration in the quality of recruits and the quality of training. How is the PNP coping with this kind of situation, given that being an instructor is not a sought-after assignment for officers and men? Everyone would rather have a field assignment because that is where the action is. If there is no meaningful reform in this area, the PNP will always have the Nuezcas out there doing damage to the PNP.
According to PNP records, from 2016 when the Duterte administration took over to February of 2019, 2,528 police personnel were dismissed and 6,440 were meted various administrative penalties. For the year 2019, there were 4,540 police personnel who were charged for various offenses. About 87 percent of these were resolved. 4,540 cases out of 205,000 policemen are about two per cent which does not seem to indicate widespread breakdown of discipline. We do not know, of course, whether the police personnel involved in these cases reported by the Internal Affairs Service of the PNP includes the so-called extra-judicial cases being reported by various non-government organizations and human rights groups.
Perhaps it is not the numbers that matter but the kind of abuses that are committed by the police. The bottom line is that the PNP must stop these abuses or end up losing public support completely.
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I do not think anyone would have objected to vaccinating the close-in security of the President or President Duterte himself for reasons of national security if procedures were followed. Regardless of what vaccine was used or how it was acquired, it should have been given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration first instead of vaccinating without the EUA and in secret. Now, there is a controversy when there should have been none. Whoever planned the vaccination should have his head examined for creating an unnecessary problem.