Purg­ing the PNP

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

When it can take two decades be­fore crim­i­nals are put be­hind bars, peo­ple wel­come the speedy purge of scalawags from the po­lice force. Last Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Duterte or­dered the po­lice chief of Ba­colod City dis­missed from the ser­vice to­gether with four other cops, say­ing the po­lice­men were in­volved in il­le­gal drug deals.

The Pres­i­dent or­dered the dis­missal as Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Fran­cis Ebreo was stand­ing guard out­side the hall where the an­nounce­ment was made. Their ouster fol­lowed the sack­ing of the en­tire 22-mem­ber po­lice force of Daan­ban­tayan town in Cebu for their “dis­mal” per­for­mance in fight­ing the drug men­ace.

Yes­ter­day, as con­cerns were raised about due process, the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice gave as­sur­ance that rules and pro­ce­dures would be fol­lowed in dis­miss­ing even those con­sid­ered to be rogue po­lice of­fi­cers. The rules re­quire not only dis­missal pro­ceed­ings, but also the fil­ing of crim­i­nal com­plaints against any cop be­lieved to be break­ing the law.

Drug traf­fick­ing is a se­ri­ous of­fense, and those en­gaged in it must be locked up be­hind bars. If cops in­volved in drug deals are sim­ply dis­missed with­out crim­i­nal in­dict­ments, they could end up lead­ing or­ga­nized crime gangs.

Pres­i­dent Duterte has openly lamented that the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice is “cor­rupt to the core.” Re­ports of po­lice abuses have re­duced his for­mer PNP chief to tears be­fore Congress. So there is strong pub­lic sup­port for a purge in the PNP and other law en­force­ment agen­cies.

Any purge, how­ever, must en­sure two things. One, those who are dis­missed from the ser­vice must be gen­uine rogues – there are enough of them in the PNP – and not just sim­ply vic­tims of pro­fes­sional ri­valry or in­trigue. Yes­ter­day the PNP chief said Ebreo was not on the narco list, while con­ced­ing that the Pres­i­dent could have his own sources. And two, rogues must be brought to jus­tice. There must be no sa­cred cows in a purge; rogue of­fi­cers can­not be al­lowed to re­tire in peace with their pen­sions in­tact.

Fi­nally, for lessons to be learned and the mes­sage of re­forms to reg­is­ter, a purge must be a reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity, a pe­ri­odic cleans­ing of the ranks. There will al­ways be rogue el­e­ments in the po­lice ser­vice. The sys­tem must be ready to weed them out.

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