Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Understanding Nation Building (Part 13)

We continue our series on analyzing Blueprints for a Viable Philippines--- a proposal that is suppose to envision a better tomorrow for the Philippines. In this post we look into the Blueprint proposal On Police.

Blueprints writes: “The Situation: Corruption plagues the country’s police forces. Whether part of a national force or devolved to local governments, the police forces are generally a picture of neglect. Badly equipped and poorly trained, they end up being dependent on the largesse of jueteng lords and local warlords.” and their analysis of the situation is: There is no way to maintain peace and order without a police force that the public can trust. Corruption and lack of professionalism are the main problems of our police.”

BLUEPRINT Recommendations are: Purge the police force of crooks and scalawags and human rights violators. Raise the salaries of policemen to reasonable levels. Create three types of police forces: (1) Special Action Forces, who will be armed and trained in the National Police Academy; (2) Regular Police, who will be unarmed but trained; and (3) Community Guards, who will be unpaid volunteers, unarmed and responsible for information gathering and maintaining peace and order in their communities. This is the people-in-arms that Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine considered essential to a democracy. Living in their own homes and earning their livelihood as civilians, they would operate outside the military chain of command, but may be placed under local governments. But when called to active duty they would be integrated under regular units.

Let us begin by looking at the situation. Why do we have a national police? If I am not mistaken, the National Police was founded on the premise to take away power from the local politicians and warlords. The premise was, if the National Police was independent of the Local Government, then the little presidents in their various provinces, towns and villages will not have their publicly funded private army.

That said, while the intention of the framers of the 1987 Constitution is genuine and well intended, it has only caused the weakening of the local government institutions, rather than strengthening it. In fact, it doesn't work. How can we say this?

Recent policy gives the mayor of a town a say whether or not a police chief is appointed or sacked. Though it is the Philippine National Police who will appoint or remove an officer, the local official has a say in the matter. When crime rises, the town folk who elected their mayors and other public officials will naturally blame them for such a circumstance--- yet now they have an excuse: “We can not control the police”. They have no power over police capability. They have no authority whatsoever and when you have no authority, it is not your responsibility.

That said, police in towns, cities and provinces all over owe a debt of gratitude to the local officials. Naturally they do have sides in all manner of things--- ergo though not in paper officially under the command of a local chief executive, they do have a relationship which can be perverted. Hence, the intent of our framers is not followed and has only created chaos.

This muddle in the chain of command takes responsibility off everyone for the lapses in police capability. The national police is also such a huge organization that resources are not properly allocated and is not proportional to the needs of every locality. It is of course a practical measure to do this because they have to shoestring everything. Hence, some of the basic needs of police officers are naturally not provided for: ammo, armor, vehicles, fuel, training, rescue and swat capabilities and of course proper pay. Ergo, some are forced to accept contributions from local crime bosses and such.

In an era of information technology, sadly the Philippine National Police is denied such tools as proper computer systems to coordinate and secure their area of responsibilities. How many times have we heard that a particular gang escaped police custody because the police were not quick enough to respond? If every police officer has been provided with communications equipment, don't you think, they can easily coordinate and respond properly?

Blueprints obviously points out correctly that “There is no way to maintain peace and order without a police force that the public can trust. Corruption and lack of professionalism are the main problems of our police”. The Philippine National Police is not beyond public trust when it sees the organization properly managed. During the tenure of Senator Lacson, then PNP Chief, he was able to project a police force that was respected by the public at large. So it is not impossible, even at its current condition to have such trust and professionalism.

In its recommendation, Blueprints looks at a chain of command not far from the current composition of the police force. But obviously it lacks creativeness and vision. It is perfectly sound logic to cut a huge problem into little small ones. Every Province under its governor should have a police force, reasonable in force composition, technology and capability. This gives the responsibility of local governance to local officials who answer to their voters. It doesn't pass the buck around. And what if the local officials abuse their power? Some of them do so already even at today's setup as admitted by Blueprints.

But by giving back the authority to local officials and to cities and provinces, proper resources are guaranteed to match their needs. Local governments can create additional revenue streams--- justified by their needs to their electorate for the purpose for example of quashing a local crime syndicate. They are given the flexibility, the tools at their disposal to enact real change on the local grassroots level. We give local voters now the responsibility of electing proper officials because they feel the effects if they do not. And local officials are given the tools they need to do their job correctly.

Blueprints recommends a police force composition that are little more than walking security guards. I do not think they understand human nature very well or the varying, myriad needs of individual municipalities, provinces, towns and cities. While it is admirable that they recommend a non-lethal approach to the maintenance of law and order, they do not understand the intricacies of the bigger picture.

What they envision too--- militia will essentially sanction private armies for local warlords. Who in their right mind would volunteer without pay, without compensation to keep the peace? Such is a ludicrous and too much idealistic that may be doomed to fail! Certainly there are many in our shanty towns who have no jobs. Why not use that labor force? Train them properly, clean them up and make them do peace keeping work but do compensate people properly for such work. And there must be a proper chain of command because there will always be a need to determine who has responsibility for what.

It is not to say of course that their idea of a neighborhood watch is not an excellent suggestion, contrary it is but such schemes should be left to individual cities, municipalities, towns, villages whenever appropriate--- hence give people the power and ability to decide what is good for them and not impose our own often time misguided vision of authority.

A militia properly sanctioned like the National Guard of the United States is an appropriate chain of command. They have their uses and individual capabilities--- military police, air force, army units and sometimes provide for rescue and response capabilities. These should be well thought of, planned and properly executed if something similar should be adopted in the Philippine setting and must be within the proper framework and context of an even bigger Civil-Military Defense Plan.

To conclude, once again we find the blueprints for a viable philippines lacking in vision, in creativity, in depth and speaks of a lack of understanding of what this nation needs. There is little new thought in their concept that has not been tried in the past twenty years and has led to the deterioration of order.