September 21, 2017, 8:11 pm
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Police work in the South

POLICE work in the Southern Philippines is unlike in other parts of the country, and it remains a big challenge for PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to strike a balance between cultural-religious realities and regular peace-and-order work in that region.

The government with President Duterte at the helm, and the police under General Dela Rosa, are desperately trying to put things in order in Mindanao, starting from the island’s security problems.

Most telling of course is the still ongoing siege of Marawi City by radical Islamists led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.

One important tact recently taken by the National Police Commission (Napolcom) which is chaired by the DILG secretary, is to withdraw the police powers of the governors of seven provinces, all Muslim areas -- Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The Napolcom resolution also covers a total of 132 mayors in these provinces.

This new Napolcom order was opposed by local officials, who pointed out that it has mistakes, like getting the names of municipalities wrong and inclusion of deceased mayors.

These errors may be easily corrected, Dela Rosa said, but the fact remains that many policemen in the seven provinces have been negligent and underperforming. This is because they owe their allegiance not to the national leadership of the PNP but to their local bosses.

The PNP chief also cited as one reason the “rido” (clan war) culture in Muslim communities, which ties the hands of policemen.

Dela Rosa said local cops are sometimes afraid of going after criminal syndicates because they fear retaliatory attacks on their families. Powerful Muslim clans might consider the police operations against their erring relatives as an affront against the clan or the tribe, thus the risk of starting vengeful violence against the policemen.

The PNP chief had been taking the flak for his policy of reassigning police scalawags to Marawi and Basilan, where upright soldiers and cops have been sacrificing their lives in fighting the Maute-Abu Sayyaf groups.

True, Mindanao needs the best and the brightest among cops and troopers to fight the ISIS-inspired rebellion, but the deployment of erring personnel there is a prerogative of their superiors.

With regards to the new policy on local officials’ supervisory function over the police in the seven provinces, let us give the Napolcom the benefit of allowing this latest reform a chance to work.
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