Saturday, September 11, 2010

Police: Why Do We Need Them? (Part 1)

Not long ago, I came across this question in one forum I visited. I said, "No big deal", but in fairness, I liked the question and posted a reply. "We need the police to protect us, to secure our life and property, to maintain peace and order, blah, blah, blah". After that, I shelved the reply forever! So I thought. But lately, I decided to make a turn around. My reply comes in two parts, so there is a sequel to this post that follows right up.

The challenge came on the heel of a sad and unexpected event that happened in my country, the Philippines, in which police elements figured badly in a mayhem. The bad news put my country in a very embarrassing situation and threatens today to obscure a smooth relationship with another country, and probably, with the whole world. Suddenly, travel advisories were against the Philippines as their destination. Scheduled tours  to this country were immediately canceled. The tourism industry is hurting. As if this isn't enough, snippets of very disturbing comments against our government and military, filled the internet. Finally,  I felt the urgency to pick the challenge and write this post, after all.

The question kept ringing in my inner ear, so with the answer- we need the police for  people's protection and security. Really? Of course that's how any right-thinking adult would reply. Sadly enough, however, ask any child- the youth- and their answers are embarrassingly varied. "Many of our police are bad. Some are torturers, hijackers, hold-uppers, robbers, killers, gamblers,  money launderers, "jueteng" lords. Others are dangerous hostage-takers, blah, blah, blah! I'm afraid of the police!". Aren't these  happening not only in my country but all over the  globe?

I don't blame the young population. They are immersed daily  in online  events  and we can't hide anything from them, anymore. Even mature people, the common man-in-the-street, and ironically,  including those who had brushes with the law, comment with bitterness and apprehension of injustice people suffered in the hands of  men-in-uniform. 

Unmasking the Tainted Police Image 

I don't entirely condone the aired grievances of these people because I can cite evidence shy some of our police seemed to have tainted their reputation and image. Shameful and embarrassing as this may, realities are here to reckon with. The most recent and gory fiascoes and mayhem in which our supposed well-respected guardians of the people's happiness and welfare- the policemen- figured badly and with such disgrace,  are still fresh in media coverage.

Reality Check No. 1 - The Ampatuan Massacre of 2009 in Maguindanao

Video footages  on YouTube of the much-celebrated Ampatuan Massacre of 2009 in the Southern Philippines in Maguindanao, allegedly perpetrated by government officials of that province in cahoots with their private armies (not really because these are soldiers of the government in active service), shocked the whole world. A group of courageous men and women- civilians, professionals, and press people- linked in a caravan to accompany the wife of a strong contender to file her husband's candidacy to the governatorial post against the incumbent Ampatuan. They were flagged down by the challenged group of incumbent officials with their soldiers dragged out of the vehicles and gunned down. The wife of the candidate was raped, before she was shot to death. 57 helpless people were killed, their bloodied bodies were carelessly dumped in shallow common graves with a government-owned backhoe. As the investigation progressed, more killings were reported, allegedly to silence the witnesses. Not one has been convicted yet. The formal  investigation aired live on TV to these days, is yet groping in the dark as to  what happened and- justice is hard in coming- if it is served justly at all.

Reality Check No. 2 - A Convict and Prisoner Was Subjected to Torture and Police Brutality

A concerned citizen secretly took a video of a be-medalled police officer who subjected a prisoner to inhuman treatment. Lying on the cement, naked, a rope was tied to his private part, was puled once in a while as he was interrogated by the police officer. The video leaked to the media. As I viewed it,  it was awful and shocking. The shame, pain, and agony of the poor victim was too much for the viewers to bare. Later, the poor victim's dead body was found outside of the prison. It was alleged that he tried to escape and was shot dead. The victim's family would not have known about his ordeal, had it not because of the video footage of the  whistle-blower. The video-taker tried to hide for fear of his own safety. Finally, he was identified, unmasked, and with his testimony, the perpetrator was also unmasked. The case in very slow  progress is viewed with suspicion of another whitewash by concerned citizens, the critiques, and the oppositionists. God forbids!

Reality Check No. 3 - The Most Recent Quirino Grandstand Hostage -Drama and Mayhem of August 23, 2010.

The worst was yet to happen, from a fiasco to  a mayhem, a never-ever thought-of scenario in the annals of Philippine government-military history hit the TV network live. Another be-medalled police officer who was found guilty of breaking the law, convicted and suspended by the Ombudsman, tried to twist the arm of this body. To dramatize his demands for a review of his case, he held hostage a busload of 25 innocent people, mostly Hongkong nationals on tour in the country. These poor Chinese nationals were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was fully-armed, with high-grade arms, despite his suspension from service. Is this mere laxity or ignorance on the part of the military?
The drama went  live on TV for several hours!

In the aftermath of this gory incident, I personally humble myself in the eyes of our Hongkong and Chinese brothers and take with courage whatever message they had to say- for this moment of their agony and grief. And pray for the repose of the souls of the dead.

The So-Called Acid Test to the Aquino Administration

The military is currently under siege for its seeming incapacity and lack of expertise and coordination that resulted in the failed negotiation resulting further in disgrace to unwanted deaths. The guardians of peace, protection, and security failed to protect innocent people, the most embarrassing of which is, they were our visitors of goodwill. 

On-going investigations cannot bring back those lost lives. But actions must be undertaken.  Heads will have to roll, those who reneged in their duties must pay. The acid test of President Aquino's sterling quality of command leadership is put on the balance.  His detractors and critiques will  have reason to hound him the more. He will be observed by his ratings in pulse surveys. He will be suspected of cover ups, God forbids! He will be accused of protecting his  comrades. He will be committing a disastrous move if he only allows solutions as far as sanitizing the stink in the ranks of his trusted men. 

People Empowerment and Grassroots Initiative  Are Welcome Solutions

No matter how hard-working the president and his trusted allies are, they can't do the work alone. As the president rolls up his sleeves to  work, what are we going to do? Men, women, and children must get themselves involved. Let us not burden the government with our inaction and continued sighs of dismay and  finger-pointing. Remember this, the police is not demolished, and never will it be. It still stands as our protector, so that we must help them ease their burden in ways we are capable of doing. We are peace-loving people. We abhor the mere suspicion of a seeming culture of violence. The sad incidents are isolated cases and solutions to our problems are probable if we pull our acts together. We aren't supposed to sit, watch, and relax.  For  our part, let's help unmask the abusive and bad elements in our police. They do wrong, so they must pay.

From the grassroots level- the barangay officials, support groups, religious groups, teachers, parents- can work hand-in-hand with the institutions like the school and the church in conducting information dissemination to all the citizens, the youth in particular,  to strengthen  their basic knowledge about what our police are doing. We must all be aware and sensitive to how the police help us and how we can help them in return. Along this line of thinking, it would help us a lot if we review how the police work for us. Learning from our past mistakes, we can bounce back as a nation worthy of respect.

We need the police, despite the unhealthy image this arm of the government is recently receiving from the public. What is badly needed today is for the government to clean the military of these sad realities of what some call- "isolated cases" of police brutality, inefficency, etc. Let's be more positive in our approach toward these events. We don't want future  untoward incidents anymore to happen again, do we?


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