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Erring Cops in Malacañang: Miscommunication Between Commander-in-Chief and PNP | CMFR

Erring Cops in Malacañang: Miscommunication Between Commander-in-Chief and PNP

Cops of the Manila Police District line up for an assembly in May 2013. | Photo by Luis Adrian Hidalgo


JEERS TO the media for failing to point out the seeming disconnect between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) authorities on the erring cops who were presented to the president in Malacañang.

The kidnap-murder of the Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in October 2016 – which only came to light in January this year – had exposed the corruption and criminality among the ranks of the police. A Senate hearing revealed the involvement of PNP officers in the crime, provoking the president to order the dissolution of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) and to assign the implementation of his drug war to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Angry and upset, Duterte in a late night press conference on January 29, said he would send off the bad eggs to hardship posts in Mindanao,  mentioning Basilan, Lanao del Norte and Sulu provinces.

As part of the internal cleansing by the PNP, 387 policemen from the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) have been ordered to undergo “disciplinary retraining.” NCRPO Director Oscar Albayalde said some are charged with light offenses and some face administrative issues with possibility of being cleared.  The retraining program recognizes that these officers are still possible to reform, explained PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa. All this was reported by the media beginning February 5, just a few days before the Malacañang meeting.

But when presented to the president on February 7, at least 220 PNP officers who attended the meeting were subjected to a scathing scolding, as the chief executive berated them for their corruption, saying retraining would be wasted on them. Instead, he ordered their assignment to Mindanao as part of Task Force South to augment the police force in the region.

CMFR monitored reports of newspapers Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Daily Tribune, Malaya, Manila Standard and The Manila Times; primetime newscasts 24 Oras (GMA-7), Aksyon (TV5), Network News (CNN Philippines) and TV Patrol (ABS-CBN 2) from February 6 to 10, 2017.

Spectacle at the Palace

In reporting the incident in Malacañang, most reports in both print and television focused only on Duterte’s tirade.  When the president began to scold them and threatened to send them off to Basilan, it was not clear whether these policemen had been selected for retraining due to misdemeanors and other light offenses or were among those suspected of more serious crimes.

Reports noted that most of the attending cops were involved only in minor offenses such as tardiness and absence without leave.  But no report ascertained if any of those threatened with posting in Mindanao were implicated in crimes, such as kidnapping or murder.

Without the clarification, the coverage served merely as spectacle, a news account with little more than the sight of shamed policemen and the sound of foul language. No reporter went back to any PNP officer to check whether they knew that this was what the president was going to do or if there had been some miscommunication between the Office of the President (OP) and the PNP.

Most of the coverage dwelt on the trivial. An exception was the report “Policeman: PNP sanctions spare well-connected officials” aired by CNN Philippines’ Network News (February 9) which interviewed one of the policemen in Malacañang. Identified only as “Rudy,” he lamented the treatment given to the erring policemen and questioned the command responsibility. He argued that only low-ranking officers were reprimanded while well-connected ones go scot-free. The report also quoted Dela Rosa, who faced the press after Duterte berated the cops, as saying that while some cops have no pending cases, counter-intelligence reports show that some were involved in corrupt practices. Unfortunately, the report did not provide any more details.

Since that week, 54 PNP officers had arrived in Basilan (“’Bad’ cops arrive in Zambo en route to Basilan,” Inquirer, February 22). If these were the same police who had been evaluated for reform through retraining, no report referred to the snafu which landed them suddenly in a hardship post.

As in the incident in Malacanang, reporters were not inclined to ask embarrassing questions.

Meanwhile, the PNP has been silent on the fate of the cases of other “scalawags” who remain in the ranks. Is this the last we shall see of efforts to clean up the PNP of criminals, scumbags and all? Will the media also let this pass?