‘New generation’ of cops out to win hearts and minds
MANILA, Philippines – The police force didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, but Alexander Baradillo Fazon, Jr. would not have any of it.
Back in 2004, the fourth try proved to be the charm when Fazon, who now holds the rank Police Office 3 (PO3), finally qualified for the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Na-discourage ko gamay pero ingon ko, sige lang, basing maka-sulod lang,” said Fazon. (I was discouraged a bit but I told myself to just try because maybe I’d still get in.)
Fazon didn’t know it then, but 10 years later, he would be among the 10 awardees of the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI)’s Search for the Country’s Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS). Fazon and 9 other awardees – 3 commissioned and 6 other non-commissioned officers – were awarded at the PNP headquarters Camp Crame on Monday, August 11.
Getting the community’s trust
The first 10 years of service has not been easy. Conducting investigations was especially difficult, Fazon said, recalling his early years as a Police Office 1 (PO1), Fazon said.
“Grabe ka-lisod mag-imbestigador. Naa’y biktima na dili mu-file ug kaso kay mahadlok or wala’y kwarta so paningkamutan nimo na matagaan ug hustisya kay ang atong basic na trabaho as police officers kanang makahatag ka ug tinug-anay… honest, effective and efficient na public service,” he added.
(It’s hard to be an investigator. Some victims don’t file cases because they’re afraid or because they don’t have money. So you work hard to give them justice. Our basic job as police officers is to give victims honest, effective and efficient public service.)
"Sa bag-ong generation of police officers, we have to make sure na mubalik ang trust and confidence sa community"
But the job of a police officer isn’t limited to solving and preventing crime. For Fazon, it’s also a matter of winning the hearts and minds of the community. It isn’t easy, given how many Filipinos perceive the PNP.
In a previous assignment in the town of Alegria, for instance, Fazon encountered a community with deep distrust of the police. The cops before them would do their rounds in civilian attire, and would be seen drunk in public. His chief of police and unit-mates introduced a drastically different approach to policing, and involved barangay officials in their work.
“Sa bag-ong generation of police officers, we have to make sure na mubalik ang trust and confidence sa community,” said Fazon. (The new generation of police officers have to make sure to regain the community’s trust and confidence.)
“We’ll give them the public service that they need. Kay kung makita nila, dili man tuod mubalik dayon slang pagsalig pero kanang eventually, musalig na sila sa imo,” he added. (It doesn’t mean that they’ll trust us right away but if they see us doing our jobs right, they’ll slowly start trusting us again.)
Speaking to media and awardees on Monday PNP Deputy Chief of Operations Police Deputy Director Leonardo Espina said awards like COPS help slowly reform the image of the PNP.
Eleven years ago, Fazon’s had a different job – he was an Araling Panlipunan teacher in Surigao City. Today, Fazon is assigned to the CARAGA PNP’s Regional Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division based in Butuan City, specifically the Explosive Ordinance Division.
Fazon was part of “Oplan Paglalansag Omega” and “Oplan Salikop,” which led to the seizure and neutralization of many explosive devices and materials. Fazon is the regional office’s “point person” when it comes to weapons and firearms and is behind the investigation and closure of illegal firearms cases.
He misses being an educator but said his current job actually doesn’t stray too far from teaching. When he’s not on the field, Fazon holds seminars for civilians and explosives. Fellow police officers are also beneficiaries of Fazon’s services – he holds lectures on investigations for young cops.
“Nagamit pud mako akong pagka-teacher sa pag-educate sa community,” he said, smiling. (I’ve used my teaching background in educating the community.)
The seminars, he said, go beyond the cops and locals he encounters. Fellow police, for instance, are told to relay what they learned to their local communities. “Para dili na kailangan mu-adto ang regional police sa ilahang community,” added Fazon. (So that regional police don’t need to go to their communities)
Fazon regularly goes around – from media guestings to community meetings. During town hall discussions, Fazon represents regional police by teaching locals about crime prevention and getting feedback on peace and order from the community itself.
Father to son
For Fazon and many other awardees, the award is a dream. Out of 154 police officers nominated nationwide, 10 were picked as awardees. All 10 will also be receiving a P400,000 cash prize.
The money will go a long way, said Fazon. A fourth of the prize will automatically be given to their assigned units. The rest, the father of 3 said, will be used to secure his kids’ education and to give back to the local community.
“Naa’y among gi-promisan na barangay sa Butuan na wala pa nahuman ang simbahan. Siguro makadonate ko ug misking gamay pang-materials,” he said. (I promised this barangay in Butuan that I’d help finish their church. Maybe I’ll donate some construction materials.)
Fazon, who has been in the PNP for more than 10 years, considers the award the highlight of his career. “Tanan nako gibuhat sauna, paid off,” said the 39-year-old.
"I want to teach the new generation how to be good citizens of the country"
After all, it’s always been his dream to enter the police force. His father, who was once the chief of police of the Surigao city police office, made a huge impact in his life – the older Fazon was the recipient of many awards and distinctions.
“Siya akong inspiration (My father is my inspiration),” Fazon said of his father, who served in the Integrated National Police and later the PNP for over 34 years. A Surigao native, Fazon now lives in Butuan along with his wife and 3 kids. His wife, his PNP training batch mate, is also a police officer assigned to the Butuan city police station.
Once he reaches 25 years of service, Fazon plans to retire from the PNP. But he doesn’t plan on resting just yet. Instead, he wants to go back to teaching.
Just like his father, Fazon wants to inspire a new generation of police officers. “I want to teach the new generation how to be good citizens of the country. Unya basing naa’y iba diha gusto ma-police, ako na pud ang mag-guide (Maybe I’ll find young people who want to be police. I can be their guide),” he said. – Rappler.com