Save the PNP now: An open letter to President Aquino
By Rex C. Drilon II
Mr. President, if you do not realize it yet, the men and women of the Philippine National Police are hurting and hurting bad. The Mamasapano tragedy that took the lives of SAF’s Gallant 44 has traumatized many in the organization.
They cannot understand why Officer-in-Charge Police Deputy Director General Leeonardo Espina and his supervising cabinet Secretary Manuel Roxas II were kept in the dark at the crucial stages of Oplan Exodus. They cannot understand why their suspended (now resigned) Chief had more knowledge and exercised more control over the special ops than their OIC Chief. They cannot understand why the inauguration of a car manufacturing plant was given more importance than the arrival of the fallen Gallant 44. And they cannot understand why up to now there is no permanent PNP Chief when a strong leader is urgently needed in this critical hour of sadness and low morale in the organization.
The fast releases of financial assistance and benefits to the families of the Gallant 44 and the Wounded 15 are appreciated and the proposed assistance programs for housing, livelihood, health care and education are being eagerly awaited.
But there are bigger issues that need to be addressed.
The men and women of the PNP are for peace. Their PNP Transformation Plan (Patrol Plan 2030) envisions a community-oriented PNP that is credible, capable and effective - which will enable communities become safer places to live, work and do business. This cannot happen in a war zone. Therefore, peace is still the better option. But it must be peace with honor, peace with justice.
We, therefore, recommend, Mr. President, the following:
1.Arrest the sadness and low morale in the PNP by immediately appointing a permanent Chief PNP who can exercise the power and authority of the position, which an OIC does not enjoy.
2.Continue to work towards peace but peace with honor and peace with justice by insisting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that they must:
a. Immediately return all the firearms, bullet-proof vests and other accessories that were removed from the bodies of the slain SAF 44;
b. Immediately surrender Usman to the authorities; and
c. Undertake to surrender the people, especially the MILF/Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Fores commanders, who may be charged by the Department of Justice for murder (and for the massacre, brutality and mutilation inflicted on the SAF 44).
3.Fully support the PNP Board of Inquiry that is investigating the events of 25-26 January even if their findings are not to your liking. This board is made up of people highly respected in the organization for their integrity, probity, competence and sense of country.
4.Speak the truth when answering questions that remain unanswered, especially from the grieving families; own up to what needs to be owned up to; and apologize to those who may have been hurt by some of your actions and omissions.
Finger-pointing and blaming people who contributed to the Mamasapano debacle is not productive at this time. What is needed now is action, decisive action.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. Rex C. Drilon II is the Chairman of the National Issues Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines, Chairman of the National Advisory Group for Police Transformation and Development and Trustee of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia.