EDITORIAL – Politics and the police service (Philippine Star)

President Aquino urged the Philippine National Police yesterday to avoid partisanship in the 2016 elections. In fact there are laws prohibiting PNP members from engaging in partisan activities during election periods. It will be easier for PNP personnel to obey the law and the President’s admonition once Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II steps down as secretary of the interior.

The PNP should not only stay out of partisan activities it should be depoliticized. This can happen only if politicians and special interest groups will cooperate in the depoliticizing process. As in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the system of appointments and promotions in the PNP is heavily politicized. This wreaks havoc on efforts to professionalize the police service.

PNP officers seek political patrons and endorsements from religious groups for assignments and promotions. Beholden to politicians for career advancement, many police officers willingly become part of their patrons’ private armies. Among the defendants in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are cops who served as the private army of the Ampatuan clan. Severing such ties is the principal reason for the general reshuffle of police officers during election periods.

Yesterday’s event at Camp Crame marked the 114th anniversary of the nation’s police service. The celebration was held as controversies continued to hound the PNP, which was created after the Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police were merged in January 1991. The PNP continues to deal with “hulidap” and other forms of extortion, jueteng payola, torture and summary executions such as the massacre in Atimonan in 2013. In an unprecedented development, the former PNP chief was dismissed from the service last June over a corruption case. Alan Purisima is facing another investigation for the raid in Maguindanao last January that killed a top terrorist but also claimed the lives of 44 PNP Special Action Force commandos.

As the SAF 44 showed, the PNP is not lacking in dedicated officers who put their lives on the line to serve the public. Such officers deserve recognition and promotions on their own merit rather than political patronage. Depoliticizing the PNP should inspire cops to improve their performance, which will mean better police service.

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