Editorial: Trusting the police

·3 min read

DO YOU trust the police?

Distrust between citizens and law enforcers took a nosedive after an off-duty police officer recently shot in point-blank range two unarmed civilians using the official sidearm he was permitted to carry after work.

Authorities, though, are not rescinding orders intended to curb police abuse, stating that the police officer charged for committing the double murders in Paniqui, Tarlac is an isolated case.

Majority of the women and men in the police force have better self-discipline and are trained to enforce and respect the Law, claims Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Debold Sinas.

He will not require again the sealing of guns, formerly required to discourage the firing of service firearms as part of noisemaking tradition to welcome the new year.

In 2016, then PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa asked citizens to work with the police in curbing the indiscriminate firing of guns, which injured and killed the innocent, particularly children.

Dela Rosa even invented two commandments to guide civilians and law enforcers, according to a post on the PNP website.

Commandment No. 11: “Thou shall not fire thy guns indiscriminately as it may hit, kill and injure thy neighbor”.

Commandment No. 12: “If thy neighbor fires his gun indiscriminately, thou shall make sure to take photos and videos to be reported to the PNP and uploaded.”

Police officers taped their gun muzzles in 2014 and 2015. Claiming that the measure is ineffective in dissuading trigger-happy cops, Sinas vowed that violators will be terminated from service.

First, though, erring cops must be caught in the act and charged, backed up by unerring evidence.

An eyewitness recorded on video the murders of Sonya and Frank Gregorio by SMSg. Jonel Nuezca during the Dec. 20 confrontation of the Paniqui, Tarlac neighbors.

Flying against the teeth of dela Rosa’s 12th commandment, which was reified in “Ligtas Paskuhan 2016” guidelines exhorting the public to use their mobile phones to document and report to the PNP gun-holders who fired during the new year revelry, Sinas cautioned citizens against video-recording police wrongdoings in case they open themselves for retaliation.

Improving the enforcement of the law while increasing their accountability to the public should be at the forefront of Sinas’ efforts to clean up the PNP.

A presidential order ostensibly implemented to make the police always ready to defend and protect enabled Nuezca to use his service sidearm during off-duty to kill the unarmed Gregorios.

In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte, after giving 3,000 pistols to soldiers during a Malacañang ceremony, pronounced that he wants law enforcers to be armed even while on recreation or off-duty. Insisting that attacks from armed communists presented a constant threat, the President observed that the prohibition against carrying service firearms during off-duty is “stupid.”

Public trust of law enforcers has eroded since the Marcos regime racked up 3,257 known extrajudicial killings, 35,000 documented tortures, 77 disappearances and 70,000 incarcerations.

Watch groups estimate more than 20,000 dead during three years of Duterte’s flagship War on Drugs.

Body cameras worn by police officers while on duty, stringent psychosocial testing and professional training and deposit by off-duty officers of issued firearms to the camp’s armorer or supply officer are for naught if the PNP authorities and President Duterte show special treatment for police officers who end on the wrong side of the law.

The PNP Human Rights Affairs Office has no authority to investigate and can only monitor complaints of abuses. Despite thousands killed or disappeared during the War on Drugs, only three police officers involved in the murder of Kian delos Santos have been sentenced.

Impunity casts a long, dark shadow on a PNP seeking to renew itself and a nation desiring protection from its law enforcers.