SR. Supt. Robert Bondoc’s story has set him apart from many in the PNP. He was a disgruntled captain in the then PC-INP (Integrated National Police) when he joined the RAM in the bloody 1989 military coup attempt against President Cory Aquino.
He was forced to surrender after a friend in the service betrayed him by disclosing his involvement in the failed putsch. When Bondoc finally located him, he was a few meters away from the latter’s house and armed with .45 caliber handgun ready to kill him on sight when the strangest thing happened. A cross atop a church suddenly blazed with a blinding light from the noonday sun. Somehow, it shook the vengeful Bondoc and melted the fire that had consumed him. He became a changed man inside the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame, nurtured his friendship with a pastor and attended his Bible study sessions. He was married to a headstrong Muslim woman who ultimately learned to embrace her husband’s faith. Bondoc would admit that before he came to know and fear God he had feared no one else except his wife. And only after three months of incarceration he was suddenly a free man when the charges against him were dismissed by a Makati court. Bondoc was then assigned as warden of the facility where he made everyone join the Bible studies, including convicted murderer and rapist, former Caluan City, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez and two of his cohorts. On two occasions he kicked the overbearing Sanchez and banged his head against the wall. Only after a tumultuous year of trying directly to reshape the physical and spiritual lives of the inmates he was replaced and promoted to superintendent as the new chief of police of Novaliches. The fearless Bondoc would leave his mark in the district as probably the only police commander who would personally direct traffic and make abusive bus and jeepney drivers towethe line while brandishing an armalite rifle. His lifesyle remained uncommonly austere. He received an on-the-spot promotion to major in Zamboanga after almost single-handedly neutralizing a band of renegade MILF and killing five of them. Occasionally, he would leave his rundown KIA sedan behind and arrive late at the PNP’s command conferences or to the police ministry meetings because it had run out of gas. Later as Bicol OIC regional commander imbued with a genuine Christian zeal, he went after the big-time jueteng operators and drug dealers like no one before him. Camp Crame officials protecting the illegal gambling and drug business in the Bicol region wanted him out but then Rep. Luis Villafuerte and his son Governor LRay Villafuerte stood by him. His promotion to Chief Superintendent was “overlooked” by then PNP chief Oscar Calderon who wanted his own man to take-over Bicol. His papers would be consigned repeatedly at the bottom of the heap of documents at Calderon’s desk. “Bert” Bondoc passed away peacefully last week due to heart enlargement. He never got his much-deserved star until his retirement in May 2008.
This columnist was part of the speakers panel at the PNP Values and Leadership Training Center while it was still being held at Subic. The facility was developed at the height of the public outrage after Pasay cops bungled a rescue operation in a hostage-taking operation by shooting both the victim and the hostage-taker. The victim was a four-year-old boy who took two bullets on the chest and stomach. The entire Pasay police force mostly made-up of pot-bellied officers were subjected to rigorous physical fitess training and values orientation and quartered for almost a week at two former barracks of US soldiers. Many of them complained of inefficiency and corruption of officials at Crame which they failed to admit had become their own examples for sloppy work and decadent lifestyles. As I spoke on Biblical truths I was almost sure that I reignited what seemed to them to be the unfamiliar but essential sense of uprightness, devotion and selflessness in them. Ultimately, the center would come under the PNP Training Service at Camp Crame which has since expanded the values formation and leadership programs of the entire PNP. Still, many in the police force continues to ignore or ridicule this department, and certainly they have joined the ranks of those directed by President Duterte to engage in the “cleansing” of the Pasig River by drinking its polluted waters before leaving the PNP or risk throwing their lives away by confronting the more vicious Muslim extremists and bandits in Basilan and Sulu.
PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa was convinced, and he said so, that spiritual renewal may be the only hope for real transformation in the police service. An incensed Digong somehow knew the real core of the persistent problem after calling the PNP “corrupt to the core” but could not put his finger into it. Understandably so, because he has denied the spiritual truths and power from the Bible which he believes to be irrelevant today.