Purging the PNP
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.