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Yearender: PNP rises amid 2020 challenges

2020 was another rollercoaster ride for the Philippine National Police which had three different chiefs being designated by President Duterte this year, scoring major accomplishments in the war against drugs, terror, criminality and corruption to bring down street crime at a record level while fighting controversies left and right under the new normal brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year started with the 23rd PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa maintaining that just like the proverbial ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes,’ the police force will soon be up again and stronger in its resolve to fight a war on crime, drugs, terror and most especially, rogues in uniform.

He spoke amid the controversy Angeles City drug controversy that rocked the police force and forced his classmate from Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986, Gen. Oscar D. Albayalde to resign his post.

“Indeed, there are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures not only to protect the significant gains we’ve achieved in our campaign against crime, illegal drugs and corruption but also to bring it to its next level from the insights we’ve learned from our tumultuous experience,” the lawyer-general said.

In February this year, Gamboa ordered the administrative relief and investigation of 357 police officers and men tagged as ‘Ninja Cops’ or those involved in illegal drug activities. The next month saw the PNP enforcing a strict Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila and the rest of the country as it was given the lead role in implementing quarantine measures ordered by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The rest of the year saw the police force, specifically its ‘front-liners’ manning Quarantine Control Points and keeping the streets safe while having their own casualties: 27 deaths so far while over 8,800 have contracted the unseen killer virus, although more than 8,500 of them have fully recovered and are now back in full duty status.

Gamboa retired last September 2 while earning plaudits from the public for a job well done and for ensuring a continuing good governance in the force. It was under him when the PNP became on the the government institutions with the highest public approval rating.

He was replaced by another PMA Class 1986 member, Gen. Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan, the 24th PNP chief who served for 69 days only. Cascolan vowed to do what is only ‘right, proper and just’ during his incumbency which was marked by a number of controversial reassignments of officers and men.

It was also him who moved to implement a nine-point action agenda focused on the highly-ambitious PNP Sustainable Development Program which include transferring police units outside of Camp Crame and bringing them much closer to areas where their services are much needed by the public.

This include relocating the PNP Maritime Group, Highway Patrol Group, Police Security and Protection Group, Logistics Support Service, Firearms, Explosives and Ordnance Division/K-9 Unit, Training Service and Health Service and the five PNP Directorates for Integrated Police Operations outside of the PNP National Headquarters.

It was under Cascolan when police went all-out to help residents of Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol regions who were devastated by tropical cyclone ‘Quinta’ and super typhoon ‘Rolly’ even as he emphasized that the Filipino ‘Bayanihan’ spirit is very much alive in the case of the PNP and its more than 20,000 advisers who continue to serve as their partners in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and other natural disasters in the country.

Interestingly, Undas 2020 naturally became the most peaceful in Philippine history, with literally no confiscation of weapons and liquor recorded in Metro Manila and the rest of the country as all cemeteries and memorial parks were closed amid the pandemic and the arrival of super typhoon ‘Rolly.’

During his brief stint as PNP chief, Cascolan said that restricted movement during the community quarantine have resulted in a noticeable fluctuation of crime trends in the country specifically murder, homicide, physical injury, robbery, theft, rape and theft of motor vehicles and motorcycles.

Actually, the nine-month crime trend recorded from January to September further dipped towards the end of October with more notable decrease in index crimes. The PNP attributed this to their stepped-up campaign against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality while launching a massive crackdown on motorcycle-riding criminals involved in robbery-holdup and gun-for-hire activities.

Last November 10 was the turn of Gen. Debold M. Sinas, a member of PMA ‘Hinirang’ Class of 1987 to be appointed by President Duterte as the country’s 25th PNP chief.

The known disciplinarian and crime-buster who previously headed by Police Regional Office 7 in Central Visayas and later the National Capital Region Police Office called on his detractors to ‘move on’ amid their huge effort to play up the controversial ‘Mañanita’ for his 55th birthday last May.

No less than President Duterte came to the rescue of Gen. Sinas whom he described as an ‘honest man.’ Indeed, Sinas buckled down to work on Day 1 of his official designation, making a vow not to reinvent the wheel and becoming the 1st PNP chief without any agenda but to work and work and work. He also ordered a strict ‘No-Take Policy’ on illegal funds from drug lords, gambling lords and other illegal sources of funds.

Three days after his appointment, he led his men in rescuing Filipinos in Luzon who were devastated by super typhoon ‘Ulysses.’ The following day, his men from the Special Action Force shot dead six suspected terrorists in a gunbattle in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

Over the past 28 days, men of Gen. Sinas have scored huge accomplishments in the war on drugs, kidnappings, terror and other criminality while waging a strict crackdown against corruption in the force and ordering the creation of PNP Station Health Units all over the country to look after policemen’s condition amid the new normal.

Sinas also ordered the procurement of more armored vests and assault rifles and conduct of specialized training for his men amid the danger they face each time they patrol the streets and come face-to-face with armed and dangerous criminals.

He cited the case of a Highway Patrol Group officer who was killed in a shootout with a dismissed PMA cadet riding a suspicious SUV in Cavite City; and the case of two PNP-SAF troopers who survived gunbattles with wanted criminals in the countryside after bullets fired by the suspects failed to penetrate their body armors.

This month also saw a small group of Datu Piang policemen in Maguindanao standing their ground against more than 100 heavily-armed men who tried to burn several targets in the municipality only to be stopped by the motley band of officers.

However, as the saying goes, one rotten apple will spoil the whole barrel. The sin of a very few policemen always tend to destroy the good things done by the force. On the day the NCRPO headed by Major Gen. Vicente D. Danao Jr. and the PNP Drug Enforcement Group under Brigadier Gen. Ronald O. Lee gunned down four ‘high-value targets’ and seized 40 kilograms of shabu during a sting in Taguig City, the entire country was already feasting on the viral video of a Parañaque City policeman shooting a 52-year old woman and her son in Tarlac.