A policy review on sending rogue cops to Mindanao

Two Mandaluyong City policemen were caught on video repeatedly striking at two barangay ordinance violators with a wooden nightstick. The detainees had been caught drinking outside their own house and taken to the police station. A video showing the abusive policemen swinging their wooden weapons, probably taken by some concerned citizen, went viral on social media and featured on television

The two policemen were immediately reassigned to Marawi City where the Armed Forces and the National Police have been engaged in battle for weeks now with Maute rebels and foreign fighters inspired by the Islamic State movement in the Middle East. Earlier, in the initial months of the new administration, hundreds of Metro Manila policemen found to have been involved in various irregularities had similarly been sent to Mindanao. The policy seems to be that assignment to Mindanao is a form of punishment for Luzon and Visayas policemen involved in irregularities in their home stations.

This policy has now been questioned by some national and local officials. Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong said erring policemen should be sued administratively instead of merely being dumped in Mindanao. “To use the Marawi crisis as a place of punishment is both insensitive and disrespectful,” he said. Last March, after rogue cops from Metro Manila were deployed in Basilan province, where the Abu Sayyaf are known to be active, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman deplored that the ARMM was being transformed into a “dump site for rogue cops.”

In the Senate, Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino said last week: “Filipinos deserve an outstanding police force. Delinquent cops should be sued, not just reassigned and sent to Mindanao.” Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana appealed to Director General Ronald de la Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police to rethink the policy.

On the other hand, some senators have defended the PNP policy. Senators Gregorio Honasan and Francis Escudero see the Mindanao assignments as temporary moves under PNP administrative procedures pending the policemen’s suspension or dismissal from the service.

Sending rogue cops to Mindanao, even if only temporarily, may serve the purpose of making them think twice before abusing their authority and committing irregularities. But there is also the other point to consider – that Marawi City is where the PNP should send the bravest of its men to fight alongside the best of the armed troops. It and the rest of Mindanao should not be a dumping ground for misfits.

The recent exchange of critical observations among some very high officials should inspire a review of the policy in the interest of good police administration and in the greater national interest.

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