[ANALYSIS] Police deviance is mutating

Raymund E. Narag, PhD

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[ANALYSIS] Police deviance is mutating
President Duterte needs to address systematic abuses in police training, promotions and assignment of posts


Another uproar hits the Philippine National Police. This time, a police officer raped a 15-year-old girl in exchange for the promise to release her parents whom the police officer apprehended for a drug violation.

The police officer had admitted to the rape, and medico legal reports corroborated the crime. The police officer even tried to justify his behavior by saying that “other police officers have done similar things,” though succeeding reports clarified that he may have been misquoted.

Police officers raping members of the family of suspects is not something new. It’s part of the police repertoire of behavior when they deal with suspects. It’s part of their supposed efforts to deter drug users and criminals from further using drugs or engaging in crime.

Multiple interviews with police officers who had fallen from grace and had been incarcerated have revealed different police strategies. These include: hulidap, patong-kaso, palit-ulo, pitik-gamit, piyansa-laya, tago-pondo, etc.

For the uninitiated, hulidap refers to the practice of arresting suspects (huli) and asking for money in exchange for freedom (hold-up); patong-kaso refers to the practice of adding criminal cases of other unarrested suspects to the one who was arrested; palit-ulo is the practice of releasing a suspect if he or she testifies against another suspect; pitik-gamit refers to theft of jewelries, money, and other valuables while effecting a raid or search; tubos-piyansa is the practice of paying “bail” (bribe) to a police officer in exchange for dropping the case; tago-pondo is the practice of not surrendering all the drugs (shabu) that were confiscated in a raid and using the remaining drugs to “plant evidence” on other suspects in other raids.

Interviews with former police officers who were in jail or prisons had them admitting that these practices are part of routine. They did not learn this from the academy, they said, “they learn this on the job.”

Direct punishment

Police officers justify the use of these strategies as a way to exact direct punishment: they realize that the cases of the suspects may eventually be dismissed by the prosecutors or the accused may be acquitted by the judges.

Police officers usually complain: “Huli kami nang huli, pinapalaya naman ng korte.” (We keep on apprehending  suspects but courts release them.)

Thus, they take matters into their own hands — to hit the suspects financially, physically, and psychologically. If it happens that they also make money from the practice, that’s simply a bonus. The goal really is to deter and exact punishment.

It must be pointed out that these police practices did not start during the time of President Rodrigo Duterte. These police practices started to creep into the police force during the Martial Law period when they were given enormous powers. It initially started as a practice of a few rogue policemen until it became rampant especially in the urban areas.

There had been efforts to professionalize the police after the toppling of the Martial Law regime. Police officers’ qualifications had increased to a minimum of a college degree, a system of continuous police schooling had been instituted, and lately, salaries of the police had been doubled.

Unfortunately, these types of police practices are deeply ingrained in the police culture. It will take a lot of police retraining and discipline to correct these deviant practices. What is worse, the continuing ruthless war on drugs had given even lowly police officers enormous powers with little accountability. They ride on the call of the President to eradicate drugs using any means necessary.

The police officers then utilize this righteous call – eradication of drugs, using all their police repertoire of strategies. Killing suspects on the pretext of nanlaban is one strategy. Raping the daughters of the suspects is another. More of these strategies will rear their ugly head as the war on drugs rages.

For President Duterte to succeed in his war on drugs, he must first realize that police professionalization is incomplete. Though he already doubled their salaries, police corruption is still very rampant.

President Duterte needs to address systematic abuses in police training, promotions and assignment of posts. Even the recruitment and education of new cadets in the Philippine National Police Academy, with the controversy on oral sex among the students, needs to be addressed first.

Police deviance did not start with the time of President Duterte. His war on drugs simply mutated it. – Rappler.com

The author is assistant professor at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

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