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Saturday, January 12, 2013
SHOOT-OUT or rub-out, the killing of 13 people at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, on Sunday is just another grim reminder that something is very wrong with the national police. DILG Secretary Mar Roxas puzzling over how Supt. Hansel Marantan could stay and go up in rank after figuring in so many questionable shoot-outs that left 40 dead is itself a puzzling sign that all is not well at DILG either.
Unless Secretary Roxas does not read the news at all, he should not be puzzled because headlines are regularly peppered with reports of policemen being investigated for petty corruption or involvement in underworld activities. As I write policemen from the Mobile Patrol Group of Cebu are being investigated for extorting money from a fair in Busay. How often do we hear of incidents like this?
How could Secretary Roxas be surprised that a police officer should not only survive so many investigations but also get regular promotions? Doesn’t he know that the most common penalty for erring law enforcers is transfer or dismissal from service? These are not penalties at all but a license to continue their nefarious activities elsewhere or as civilians.
In other countries like the US and the UK, when in trouble you generally run to the police for help. In the Philippines (but also in other countries like Russia if that’s any comfort) if you don’t want any trouble you are better off staying away from the police. The grapevine story is that they plant evidence, take for their personal use confiscated property and, among other unpleasant and improper things, moonlight as bodyguard or gun-for-hire to some political, drug or gambling lord. Or so the stories go, anyway.
My own early experiences with peace officers have been anything but pleasant. I have since learned that to avoid trouble, if you are not a highly placed person like Mar Roxas to whom the police bow, you must treat policemen with the utmost servility and refrain from challenging their dubious, not-so-helpful methods of work.
The Atimonan incident will be a good test of PNoy’s no-politics “matuwid na daan.” It will be interesting how the investigation will be conducted and what penalties will be meted out to the guilty in an election year. It will be interesting because P-Noy has just claimed “no politics” (really now?) in the suspension of Governor Garcia (would it have been usurpation if she was an LP?). Will there be no politics in the penalties for the guilty in the Atimonan shoot-out or rub-out?
Where there’s smoke there is fire. This country has been seeing too much smoke coming out of the police force. So far, responsible officials have really not done anything to put out the fire. Will they do it this time?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2013.