MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership on Wednesday ordered changes in its recruitment policy and a nationwide retraining of police officers after a string of crimes were linked to policemen.
PNP Chief Director General Raul Bacalzo said most of the offenses committed by police officers in recent weeks, including kidnapping and rape, involved rookie policemen with ranks mostly ranging from PO1 to PO3.
Bacalzo said new recruits will need to undergo an extensive background check as well as neuro-psychiatric tests before they are allowed to join the police force.
He said retraining will be done in every police station across the country.
A special group will also investigate the root cause as to why policemen are resorting to criminal and administrative offenses. , the police chief said.
Bacalzo said the rash of crimes linked to cops are just isolated cases and should not reflect on the PNP’s image. However, he admitted he is alarmed with the frequency and gravity of the offenses over the past few weeks.
"Nakakalungkot na yung ibang policemen ay naapektuhan ng mga kagaguhan o maling ginawa nitong ilang mga pulis," he said.
The PNP earlier condemned the rise of criminal cases involving policemen since last month.
- the kidnapping of 2 people by 11 Quezon City police officers during an alleged anti-narcotics operation in Pasay City, (11 QC cops face kidnap, attempted murder raps);
- the rape of a woman by a desk duty officer inside the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters on December 31, 2010, (Cop accused of raping woman inside MPD headquarters);
- the shooting spree of a police officer in Bulacan, killing 1 person and injuring 2 others, (Cop nabbed after shooting spree in Bulacan);
In the kidnapping case, Quezon City Police District Chief Superintendent Benjardi Mantele said the policemen involved are currently detained in Camp Caringal. He also ordered the entire QCPD anti-illegal drugs unit grounded after the accused cops claimed that they were just conducting anti-narcotics operations.
The Manila Police District (MPD), meanwhile, launched a manhunt for the desk duty officer who allegedly raped a woman inside the MPD headquarters last month.
Bacalzo has ordered a three-strike policy against police supervisors and officials with erring police personnel. He said leadership command has to be strengthened so he warns supervisors that if there are reports of three incidents involving policemen under his or her watch, he or she will be relieved from their post.
He also ordered regional police directors to detain all policemen involved in grave misconduct cases in city or provincial jails instead of cop detention facilities. He said detaining them in regular jails will "erase any suspicion we are providing special treatment to them or whitewash the investigation."
The PNP chief appealed to the public to report erring officers and to help them police the PNP.
Interior Secretary Jessie Robredo, meanwhile, said erring police officers should be immediately terminated from the service.
He said the cases against police officers in the past few months have been alarming but statistics show that the number of cases decreased in 2010 compared to previous years.
Most of the cases filed against police officers include grave misconduct, rape, illegal discharge of firearms, and abuse of authority.
Since Robredo assumed office, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) identified hardline cases – illegal drugs, rape, illegal discharge of firearms, abuse of power, homicide - which automatically result in the police officer placed in preventive suspension until the case is resolved.
Robredo now aims for a zero backlog, wherein cases that have remained unresolved for more than 5 years are now being reviewed.
The DILG also hired additional legal officers to look into the cases.
CHR condems police abuses
The chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, condemned the string of abuses committed by police.
In a strongly worded statement, CHR Chairwoman Loretta Ann Rosales said those responsible for gross human rights violations must be held to account for their actions.
"In a democratic society such as ours, the rule of law must serve to buttress, not diminish, the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. When the police violate these human rights, instead of guaranteeing them, they become no better than the worst criminal elements. They become part of the problem, a veritable cancer gnawing at the sinews of our democracy," she said.
Rosales recommended 3 actions for the PNP including:
1. Ensure the immediate arrest, prosecution and conviction of erring police officers;
2. Review and upgrade its recruitment processes to ensure psychological and moral fitness; and,
3. Strengthen the human rights education and training program of all police personnel.
She said the full force of the law must be brought to bear on erring policemen since their violations "prejudice the reputation of our police forces, and casts doubts on our own government's ability to protect the people."
"It is neither fair nor just, morally and legally, to merely slap the perpetrators in the wrists with such actions as drawn-out, internal investigations and reassignments. The full force of the law must be brought Ito bear on them who besmirch the memory of the police force that was once Asia's finest. With reports from Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News