Last May 8, Metro Manila’s chief of police Debold Sinas welcomed policemen in a “manañita” or an early morning serenade for his birthday. Sinas and his men partied like there was no martial law-level lockdown in place. Forget the fact that they shoot and beat up people for defying the same rules. After all what are they in power for?
Sorry, but not sorry
The violation was documented by no less than the National Capital Regional Police Office’s Facebook page. Sinas apologized soon after but killed what little goodwill the apology conveyed by saying, “There was nothing wrong with it. It would have been ungentlemanly if I had turned them away.”
Apparently, he was more concerned about appearing gentlemanly than following rules. How can we trust a police force led by a man who doesn’t know right from wrong? A man who doesn’t follow the rules he enforces?
But that’s not the end of it. He tried to turn the tables on an incensed public by saying the photos were “fake” – the very photos netizens took from the NCRPO’s Facebook page. Sinas would like us to believe he’s a gentleman. In the end, he may be a gentleman to his cohorts, but to netizens, he is a liar – and an inept one at that.
Why are people so angry online? That’s because law enforcers had made themselves clear through their actions: defy the rules and you will be dealt with severely.
Don’t wear a mask and you’ll end up like the fish vendor in Quezon City who was mauled and hauled off to jail like swine for the slaughter.
Let your helper water your plants, even within your own property, and you’ll find your face slammed to the pavement like an expat in Makati. Sun yourself by your building’s pool? Police might barge into your residential building like they did in a condo in Taguig.
Defy curfew and you might end up like the factory worker in Cavite who suffered a swollen face, a bruised body, a black eye, and a head wound that needed 7 stitches.
Or argue with police, and you might end up like former corporal Winston Ragos who was gunned down and killed like he was an enemy of the state.
After all, it was President Rodrigo Duterte who laid down the rule on lockdown disobedience: “shoot them dead.”
But it turns out, power in this country exempts you from the lockdown. Look at Mocha Uson, now ressurected as an Overseas Welfare undersecretary, who went her merry way to meet with overseas Filipino workers in Batangas. Or Senator Koko Pimentel who went to a hospital even if he was COVID-19 positive.
Weaponized police force
The reaction of Sinas’ boss, Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa was equally revealing. He said there was “no violation in his view” without even looking at the facts. He tried to excuse his subordinate Sinas – a Duterte appointee like him – without regard for protecting the integrity of the institution his badge stood for. Kunsintidor ka sa sinungaling, Gamboa.
Of course, they made a show of filing the appropriate charges against Sinas and Ragos’s shooter. But the impunity and double standards under the ECQ reveal a police leadership so bereft of values, pro forma charges will not restore the now complete loss of trust of the people.
Where did this start, this emergence of a police force mentality that befits the fearsome Metrocom of Marcos’s Martial Law days 36 years ago?
This culture of impunity can be directly traced to Duterte’s tokhang, the drug war that created a weaponized police force solely concerned with making the President happy – even if it goes against their sworn oath to protect the citizenry. It has taught officials and rookies alike that justice, compassion, and respect for human life doesn’t get them accolades or promotions.
That backslide isn’t unique to the cops. It took around 3 decades for the military to adopt a “hearts and minds” approach to the Left – and all it took was a Duterte to reverse that overnight. Now soldiers have the license from the President to “hunt communists down” and “annihilate them,” as well as “shoot women rebels in the vagina.”
Will the police ever give up the power that made them gods when they strut down streets, one that allowed them to vent their macho anger at “pasaway” (undisciplined) citizens with no blowback? We don’t think so.
Duterte and former police chief Bato dela Rosa have created a monster force – one that will make Hitler proud. It will be one of the most problematic Duterte legacies his successors will have to grapple with, unless they are of the same mold.
Now we know
Now we know how the tokhang victims felt firsthand: the vulnerability, the fear, and the helplessnes. Mobile phone videos documented a lot of the police brutality and double standards, but you can be sure a lot of the abuses did not find their way online. But this is happening.
We call on Filipinos to not let this pass. We can’t ignore this like we ignored tokhang extrajudicial killings – now we know the police can turn on anyone – the rich, the middle class, and the poor. We can’t ignore this simply because we could be next. #CourageON – Rappler.com