Twenty years ago, I was in Crame. That was the first and hopefully last time I ever go there. The reason was mundane (a traffic accident) but I was led through what seemed like the bowels of one of the buildings. I remember passing by a small room which was empty except for only one chair in the middle. It was not even a second of time spent walking past that room, but I immediately got the shivers. After all, I am a Martial Law baby, and I have an almost organic fear of those army and police camps on EDSA. I imagined an interrogation, someone blindfolded and tied to the chair, a man with a cudgel or holding the ends of electric wires standing over.
How much of my sudden fear and revulsion was conditioned by Hollywood, and how much was based on reasonable assessment? I don’t know. But I am not ignorant to the reality that life is cheap in a poor third world country. I would have felt the same shivers in Bangkok or Jakarta, if I were Thai or Indonesian.
The recent bold killing of a Korean national right inside Crame only highlights the extent of depravity and abuse that still exists inside the PNP today. The exposure of generals and other high-ranking officials in the narco trade is another reminder. Some say the brutality is coming back due to Duterte’s war on drugs and the attitude of all out support to the uniformed services given by the President. It is therefore become more imperative that quick and decisive action be done in this high profile case.
PNP chief Bato, who once broke down in tears over the sad state of criminals among the PNP ranks, seems sincere in efforts to reform the institution, but this latest grotesque incident can only be taken as a slap on his face.
“Very angry. Very offended. Kung pwede lang matunaw ako ngayon sa kinalalagyan ko sa hiya. It happened sa loob ng Camp Crame. Kinuha nila doon sa Caloocan, dinala doon sa loob ng Camp Crame, at doon pinatay. Kung pwede lang matunaw ako ngayon sa hiya. Hiyang-hiya ako,” he said in a briefing in Malacañang.
There is no question about the sorry state of our institutions, the police and justice system chief among them. However, this does not mean that we should give up. The idea of waiting to wage a drug war until you have a totally flawless police is illogical. Should we just stop chasing criminals and enforcing laws since the police are corrupt? Should we stop putting out fires until we have the perfect, corruption-free fire department?
We should not forget that there are good and decent people in these services too. Duterte and Bato, I think more than any other previous top officials, have gone on record and stated publicly that they recognize the problems and want to reform the PNP and AFP. These are not easy nor uncomplicated tasks. Increasing the woeful pay of our police and soldiers is certainly one measure. If we didn’t pay them like slave animals, perhaps they would not act like animals. The other measure: to increase morale and heighten awareness for public service and love of country has certainly been done, and done well by no less than Duterte himself.
Unfortunately, these two measures are the ones being strangely derided by the anti-Duterte’s, who see it as coddling in preparation for Martial Law. In their view, the root of all evil is the President’s potty mouth. That seems to be the end all, and be all of their argument.
The recommendation then is obvious, act decisively in this sad case of Jee, prosecute the monster cops to the full extent of the law. (Incidentally, I think cases like this are exactly why Duterte wants the death penalty back). For the potty mouth, scale back and instead give explicit threats Duterte-style that criminal cops will be sorry they ever lived.
CE Jan 2017