Amid public outrage over drug slays, PNP installs new community relations chief

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2017 09:50 PM

MANILA - Senior Supt. Rhodel Sermonia on Thursday took over as the new chief of the Police Community Relations Group (PCRG), taking the post as the Philippine National Police (PNP) faced public scrutiny over allegations of police abuse in anti-drug operations. 

Sermonia said it is a big challenge to communicate to the public the PNP's various programs, especially now that the organization has been receiving heavy criticism over the anti-narcotics campaign in the wake of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos' controversial killing.

The slay, involving three Caloocan City police officers, has sparked public outrage as evidence indicate that the boy was murdered.

"'Yung nangyari kay Kian, I think that is a learning or parang we will learn from that, the more that we are going to educate our personnel, the more that we are going to follow strictly the standard operational procedures," he said.

Delos Santos' slay has triggered investigations at the Senate, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies. 

"Of course, we will learn from the lapses committed by our policemen. Of course, I cannot say anything about that because it is already being investigated," Sermonia said. 

"The more that we are going to do community work, show them that, of course, aside from relentless operations now being done by all the units of the PNP, we have to do more community engagement, we have to involve other agencies of government, not only the PNP, which is very important," he added. 

Sermonia said he wants police to engage more with the public and bring the PNP's "good programs down to the police stations as far as Mindanao and far as Northern Luzon."

For Sermonia, who previously served as the police unit's deputy director, "Oplan Tokhang"- the force's "knock and plead" anti-drug drive- is "one of the best programs the PNP [has] ever had."

Tokhang has gained notoriety over alleged extrajudicial slays committed in its implementation. In defense, the PNP has said police only shoot drug suspects who resist arrest and fire first at pursuing officers. 

"It's just a misinterpretation or misconception of the public. Maybe we need the help of the media to help us promote the Tokhang program as a very good program, considering that it has [led to the surrender of] more than a million drug personalities, neutralized thousands of drug pushers, and we can see the support of the different agencies of government and our community partners," he said.

"It is a manifestation that the program is good, pero kailangan po namin ng media para i-propagate at ipaalam sa publiko na hindi po negative ang tokhang na programa," he added. 

Meanwhile, outgoing Director Chief Supt. Gilbert Cruz will be the new Director of Police Regional Office 8 in Eastern Visayas.