Editorial: Good cops and human rights

·3 min read

It certainly inspires a spate of reactions especially from critics of government. Malacañang appointed former Philippine National Police chief Camilo Cascolan as undersecretary at the Office of the President on Feb. 22, 2021.

Cascolan was at the PNP’s helm from September to November 2020, but he was among those who conceived of the PNP’s anti-drug campaign Oplan Double Barrel, under which is Oplan Tokhang, which has been highly criticized after it allegedly resulted in the death of thousands of drug personalities.

While the PNP organization has been in the thick of its internal cleansing operations, it appears that of late, a good number of officers are standing out in terms of local initiatives in their anti-criminality campaign, specifically in the war against drugs.

One such tale is close to home. To recall, in the 2020 speech of President Rodrigo Duterte during Cebu’s Sinulog festival, the President had singled out Talisay City as having one of the worst illegal drug situations in the country. He specifically pointed out Barangay Tangke as a hotspot, adding that its deeply entrenched problem involved some personalities in the police organization.

While at this, the decorated officer Lt. Col. Gerard Pelare, barely warm in his new post as Talisay Police Chief had just launched his own campaign against illegal drugs with the tack he had been known for—community relations. His preceding stints in Consolacion town and in Danao City earned his stations national recognition in community relations. While he was Consolacion chief, his station was adjudged one of the top three out of the 1,486 municipal stations in the country.

In an interview, Pelare said, this is so because even the police certainly do not have a monopoly on the best ideas in policing. Deceptively simple statement, but months of efforts prove how the Talisay City team had delivered. The police had done major strides in the campaign against illegal drugs in notorious Barangay Tangke by reaching out to citizens. Cleanest campaign ever as far as drug-clearing operations are concerned.

On Feb. 1, the Talisay City Police attained the highest accomplishment in all the flagship programs of the PNP in the month of December in 2020. The station’s achievements, however, rate beyond that. On Jan. 11, 2020, the Talisay Police simultaneously conducted 13 drug busts, which yielded 46 drug suspects and a confiscation of P5 million worth of suspected shabu. The accomplishment wasn’t so much about the numbers, but how the communities had closely worked with the police through Oplan Limpyo Talisay Project.

Pelare’s report to the PNP’s national leadership, which was published in the PNP Academy’s journal, was aptly entitled: “City of Talisay Police Station’s Human Rights-Based Approach in Winning the Drug War.”

On top of his narrative was the quote: “He who wins the crowd, wins the war.” The police, Pelare said, “must be able to communicate to the public its ‘human side.’”

Notable in Pelare’s strategy is “POLICE PACT” (Police and Partners Act of Kindness for the Children in Talisay). Knowing the kind of miseducation the young get in an environment where illegal drugs thrive, the police had stepped in to reach out to the children of arrested illegal drug suspects.

Pelare, who is also a lawyer, won’t be staying long in Talisay City, and the successor will have big shoes to fill in continuing the city police’s major strides.