PRO­TECT­ING AND SERV­ING ALL —

Animal Scene - - FRONT PAGE - Text by ROSA FONTELERA YONG

To Serve and to Pro­tect”, the motto of the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice, does not ex­plic­itly state to whom they ren­der this vow. Per­haps it has al­ways been as­sumed to be lim­ited to fel­low hu­mans, es­pe­cially of late, be­cause it is more com­monly the un­der­tak­ing of ev­ery­day cit­i­zens and, later, an­i­mal wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tions, to be con­cerned with the care and pro­tec­tion of an­i­mals. As such, it usu­ally comes as a sur­prise to pet own­ers, when they seek as­sis­tance for vi­o­la­tions to the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act (RA 8485/RA 10631), that they are in­structed to call on Pa­trol 117 to start the ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal process and ac­tion for their com­plaints.

Break­ing the bound­ary

This is the odd line bro­ken by Supt. Jaime Santos, Deputy Chief of Po­lice for Ad­min­is­tra­tion, of the Makati Po­lice Sta­tion. A pho­to­graph he posted on his Face­book ac­count on 2 Fe­bru­ary 2016 of him­self feed­ing a stray dog quickly went vi­ral, gar­ner­ing salutes from friends and strangers as well as prayers that he may be fur­ther blessed for his kind­ness. His post, trans­lated, says: “My daily rou­tine in­cludes feed­ing poor dogs, es­pe­cially af­ter my pa­trol and in­spec­tion of fel­low po­lice. Why do I do this? It’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing when you can help, even if it’s just one meal for a sick dog no one cares for and who gets treated like trash by other hu­mans. I ar­range my sched­ule to find time to do this. Even if the dog can’t say a word of thanks, I know and I can feel the grat­i­tude from them.”

An act of love

His em­pa­thy for an­i­mals in need be­gan at a young age, as he grew up with pet dogs in the fam­ily. This em­pa­thy came to a peak when he was nine and wit­nessed an act of cru­elty. In Filipino, he nar­rated how the dog was cry­ing as it bled from the blows it was re­ceiv­ing from some per­son—and yet, it was try­ing to cud­dle up to its tor­men­tor. The young Santos grabbed a piece of wood and, cry­ing, he ap­proached the abuser and asked the per­son to stop, or else he would deal the same pun­ish­ment to that per­son. Since then, he added, he has loved an­i­mals. A com­mon (and ma­li­ciously false) ac­cu­sa­tion all peo­ple in­volved in an­i­mal wel­fare is that they don’t care about hu­man be­ings. But Santos be­gan a feed­ing pro­gram with his wife in 2000, when they would visit an or­phan­age in Sta. Mesa, bring­ing milk and di­a­pers for the ba­bies and buy­ing food for the older chil­dren. He smiles as he nar­rates how hav­ing beef brisket rice por­ridge cooked made the pro­gram more pop­u­lar. Santos and his wife gave food to those who’d been vic­tims of storms, fires, and to those in shanty ar­eas. Around 2007, he no­ticed that once the feed­ing ses­sions were over, about half a dozen dogs or so would linger,hop­ing for scraps. And so his feed­ing pro­gram ex­panded to in­clude dogs. Week­ends find him and his fam­ily any­where in Makati, Manila, Que­zon City, and on oc­ca­sion, var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in Re­gions 3, 4, and 5. Their most re­cent feed­ing pro­gram for both hu­mans and dogs were in the Pasay Ceme­tery and Manila South Ceme­tery. Af­ter dis­tribut­ing food to the peo­ple in the area, they would call on the dogs wait­ing nearby, dis­tribut­ing as many as twenty-five con­tain­ers of food for the an­i­mals.

Those con­tain­ers did not have mere left­overs; Santos ex­plains that he com­mis­sioned a friend with a carinde­ria to cook ground pork for the dogs, as he wasn’t sure they were used to store­bought dog food. He buys and uses con­tain­ers to por­tion off the food and en­sure more dogs can get a share. Us­ing this home­made mix, he feeds stray an­i­mals in var­i­ous ar­eas on a daily ba­sis, be­gin­ning with those out­side the sta­tion. Ev­ery­day, as early as 5 AM, Santos goes in to work so that he can get his work done and have more time for feed­ing the an­i­mals that need his help. He doesn’t hes­i­tate to look for dogs hid­ing un­der cars or who are scroung­ing in the trash. He even car­ries ex­tra con­tain­ers of pre­pared food for any strays that might cross his path while he is on duty.

“Aspin pa­trol”

On his week­day rounds within var­i­ous ar­eas of Makati, he is typ­i­cally in uni­form, help­ing peo­ple iden­tify him as a po­lice of­fi­cer and not an an­i­mal catcher. On week­ends, he is less con­spic­u­ous while mak­ing the rounds in other parts of the metro with his daugh­ter, Tiara. Nei­ther make any ef­fort to in­tro­duce them­selves, fo­cus­ing solely on their task of feed­ing the an­i­mals. He’s play­fully dubbed his op­er­a­tions the “ASPIN Pa­trol.” Usu­ally, the re­ac­tion of peo­ple in the area to their sur­prise vis­its is pos­i­tive; they are de­lighted to see the San­toses and he shares how some have even wept openly to see them help­ing ne­glected dogs. In ad­di­tion, oth­ers are touched to see a po­lice­man—un­for­tu­nately as­so­ci­ated with cor­rup­tion and greed— like him ren­der­ing as­sis­tance to help­less crea­tures. They’ve told him that they thought peo­ple like him only ex­isted in the movies. His kind­ness helps peo­ple over­come their fears and hes­i­ta­tion; Santos talks about how peo­ple some­times hide their dogs, think­ing he’s from the pound— then when they dis­cover what he does, they bring out the dogs again and thank him pro­fusely. Some­times they even ask if he can feed peo­ple as well on his reg­u­lar rounds. But what Santos does isn’t al­ways easy or safe, he ad­mits; he ac­knowl­edges that he risks be­ing bit­ten by trau­ma­tized strays. Some­times a dog will bark at him for a long time be­fore fi­nally com­ing up to him and let­ting him feed it. And de­spite the ob­vi­ous con­cern he shows for the an­i­mals they own, ad­vice of­fered by a stranger in civil­ian cloth­ing can be met with some hos­til­ity, es­pe­cially when he tries to give sug­ges­tions on ve­teri­nary care. Few ac­tu­ally lis­ten to him, and even then, his ad­vice is met with some hes­i­ta­tion. The fam­ily presses on with their ASPIN Pa­trol any­way, pre­par­ing and pack­ing food that they can dis­trib­ute to hu­mans and dogs alike. And in­cred­i­bly, he’s plan­ning to ex­pand his feed­ing pro­gram yet again, this time to in­clude cats be­cause, as he says rue­fully, there are many of them that are also starv­ing.

Giv­ing thanks

The most re­mark­able thing about his and his fam­ily’s ef­forts is the fact that it is all purely from their own ini­tia­tive. Santos shares that he feels it’s his re­spon­si­bil­ity, and that all fund­ing comes from his pocket, al­though some­times, peo­ple will do­nate to his cause. Asked why he car­ries out a task that earns him lit­tle thanks from hu­mans, Santos says he wants to show peo­ple that you don’t need to be rich to feed oth­ers. He con­sid­ers what he does his way of giv­ing back to God, from whom he says all bless­ings flow.

Lunch breaks are feed­ing breaks; this screencap taken from his Face­book ac­count shows a dog Supt. Santos feeds dur­ing his lunch break.

On one of his off­duty feed­ings. (Photo cour­tesy of Supt. Santos)

A screencap of the orig­i­nal pho­tos by Supt. Santos that went vi­ral.

(Top left pho­tos) Food is pre­pared specif­i­cally for the dogs; this screencap comes from Supt. Santos’ Face­book ac­count.

Daugh­ter Tiara ac­com­pa­nies her father on his week­end rounds. (Photo cour­tesy of Supt. Santos)

Week­ends are also for feed­ings. (Photo cour­tesy of Supt. Santos)

The Santos fam­ily also has a feed­ing pro­gram for peo­ple; of­ten, strays linger af­ter­wards in hopes of get­ting fed too.

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