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?


  1. So sad but I know we'll overcome. We really do need the police, but they do need more advanced training, and they need to love their job and not just after the money. The superiors too and leaders should always be prepared for any worst scenarios that could happen to the country.

    I've just followed your blog. I like it, so virtuous. I wish I could also encourage my father to blog about his thoughts. He is so cynical and not so creative, but he got nothing to do at home. He is a retiree like you. Keep the vigor ma'am. Cheers of wine!.;-)

  2. I thought it long if it is wise to post this gory scenario that put the entire country in embarrassing situation. But people must know, especially the victims' families, that we admonish our police's clumsy handling that led to the unwanted deaths. We must humble ourselves for forgiveness. At the same time, we join them in prayers for the dead.

    Your Dad needs a big push and soon he will realize you only want to offer him a healthy pasttime, through blogging. Don't ever bring out the idea of making money out of it. Keep him in a low gear to start. My daughters did the same with me because I was adamant the first time. Good luck, Kabayan! Thank you for the warm comment.

  3. Lita-this is a beautifully written and courageous post, a cry from your heart. I'm sorry to hear of these tragic events that took place in your country and hope there will be no more such incidents. The corruption of the police and the use of the military to repress dissent is an almost universal phenomenon. I've seen countless examples of this kind of abuse in my own country, and always they're swept under the rug by the powers-that-be. Rarely, if ever, is action taken to punish the perpetrators. It's a sad reality we all live under. When push comes to shove, the people in power will fight tooth and nail to maintain their power at the expense of whomever stands in their way. Personally, I haven't much faith in the ability of the political process to redress these abuses, but I suppose it's every citizen's responsibility to strive to create a more humane and just society.

  4. nothingprofound,
    "an almost universal phenomenon"- somehow allays my guilt in posting our own country's embarrassment. The knowledge that we aren't alone in the world living under this spell of sad truth pushes me to pour out my heart. "swept under the rug", "Rarely, if ever, action is taken", "fight tooth and nail" are the same fears I'm living with.

    Although I share your contention of doubt in political process, I give myself hope that the new dispensation will show more teeth in running after the perpetrators, have heads roll and serve justice. Your strongly-worded reactions will be recorded in history as the voice of the people. Thank you, Marty, for rushing in for support. As always!

  5. Hi Lita,
    What a great post!
    I think it's not only happened in your country... i also heard about the bad issue about the police in my own country!!
    Actually there're so many good and honest police officers... but coz of some rouge elements then damage the image of police corps.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful post, Lita!
    Hope you have a happy Friday!

  6. Nensa,
    Yes, those bad apples destroyed the whole basket of good apples. They are the few drops of oil in a clean bucketful of water, the water is contaminated as well.

    This bad performance of the police force needs an urgent attention by the government. Our police need retraining just as they need incentives. Dissatisfied with their salaries, their positions, they do the unexpected.

    Our government is trying to review the causes of these atrocities, with the help of the
    legislative branch, many heads are expected to roll, the president says. Amen. Thanks Nensa.

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  8. Never have I read a bad post from you!
    I always learn something new & leave thinking.
    Mr Monkey

  9. Mr. Monkey,
    I have known you to be the best joker online and if you aren't joking, I feel ill at ease(strange). You're indispensable, Shawn (did I get the name right?). What I enjoy most are the banters(comments) over those jokes. Keep it up! Thanks.

  10. hello Maam, i find your article very informative. however we may not put the blame on our officials,still we can never deny their crucial part on these events. and i guess, they should act accordingly to their mandates. otherwise, our votes would be in vain. By doing what is meant to be done such as changing incompetent cabinet members and penalizing reckless officials, i guess "he" will be doing much to send a message that the government is indeed serious on his stance for good governance.

    yes we cannot pinpoint everything to the government, yet we can never just put our hands off of it. they too share a big chunk of recklessness.

  11. Multi Blogging,
    Visited your web page and left a comment in one of your posts. Lots to learn from there about technology advancement. Thanks.

  12. Totomel,
    The sad incident points to a blunder, when the handlers probably didn't suspect that a colleague can afford to go overboard in that hostage-taking scenario, on one hand and that on the other, they couldn't be harsh in dealing with their own. So there was a seeming soft- hand attitude at the start. Remember that it took them all day negotiating. If the perpetrator was not a colleague, it would have probably been done with swiftness and finality. Let's not forget about all those "rub-outs" where our military figured in pursuit of the "enemies" of society.

    This shows that our officials were really caught flat-footed. While they were leafing over their books, the situation was worsening. Our country's dependence on bureaucratic procedures rendered our officials and military men pointing fingers on others but themselves when the unexpected already happened. Too late to know we are still wanting so much in management of hostage-taking. Everyone learns his lesson here. "He" will surely be watched in all his steps in solving this crime.

    This is my personal opinion. Thank you my friend for giving strength to my personal views.

  13. When I read your post this, maybe I can say that lest the police were there within the scope of "addiction" that is happening, not the welfare of the people or protect the public preferred, but ruled out. I love this post ... thank you for your comment in to my blog posts.

  14. Truly, I can only imagine the grief of the family of those whose life was taken so cruelly by a fellow human. Thank you for sharing the 'You Tube' memoriam.

  15. Rev, Savrison Manembu,
    It's somehow disgusting to find some characters in the police who forget their oath to secure and protect people. They are but few, so I hope, this time they will be properly re-trained or punished if necessary.

    Sorry for this delayed reply to your comment. Thank you for connecting.

  16. Ismail,
    No one wants this sad incident to happen. Those innocent people were in the wrong place in a wrong time. Yes, what we can do is pray for the souls of the departed and pray further for their families to know how and when to move on. Let's include in our prayers a speedy justice for them. Thank you for visiting and commenting, too.



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