In an attempt to fast track the removal of PNP personnel suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade, DILG Secretary BenHur Abalos asked all PNP senior officers from full colonels up to submit their courtesy resignations.
These letters of resignations will then be evaluated by a board composed of five members who are supposed to be of impeccable character and record and then decide on who should stay and who should be separated from the service.
In the interest of fairness because we are dealing with the guilt or innocence of officers who have families with more than 20 years of service, the protocols of the process must be written before the deliberations will begin.
Biases must be eliminated entirely and the evaluation process must be objective and fair.
For this, the best people who should compose the committee are retired judges or justices.
No retired PNP personnel should be included to eliminate bias judgment.
All these will not satisfy everyone but it will at least eliminate bias and provide a semblance of objectivity.
From the original target of 300, this number is now down to about 38.
With such a small number, some are wondering why the PNP does not simply charge them administratively and then separate them from the service if found guilty and spare the PNP and its leadership a stressful exercise.
This initiative has a precedent because it is similar to what happened to the PNP when President Fidel V. Ramos assumed office in 1992 but for different reasons.
That 1992 exercise resulted in about 63 senior officers being retired from the service with the unintended consequence of accelerating the promotion of many officers.
This time around, the reason is to weed out PNP officials who are suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
When interviewed, Secretary Abalos admitted that this initiative is a short cut to get rid of bad eggs in the organization without having to go thru the lengthy process of charging them in court.
He said further that extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures.
That there are police personnel involved in the illegal drug trade is beyond question
The question is whether this process is fair, legal and the best solution to solve the problem without creating other problems.
We have to remember that the police is only one part of the whole judicial process. There is the prosecution and those who sit in judgment, not to mention local government officials.
The initial reaction from the Police General Headquarters is that all those concerned officials will abide as many already did.
I suspect, however, that there will be grumblings like what happened in 1992 when the PNP senior officers were asked to resign.
The majority did submit their resignations but many also did not.
We do not know, therefore, whether this will be the case this time or what will happen to those who will not submit courtesy resignations.
For one, times have changed.
Those who will be separated might not be so docile and simply accept a guilty decision without a court fight.
The more that this DILG effort will be talked about, there will be questions about due process and the doctrine of presumption of innocence.
Right now, what the public is getting are mostly media reports which cannot be treated officially.
There is a need, therefore, for the DILG to release more official details about this process like what to expect and what are the protocols.
For instance, will the decision be final or can it be appealed? If so, to whom?
What happens if someone who will not agree with the decision goes to court for an injunction?
What role will the so-called summary of information play in the evaluation process?
It is important that this exercise will be perceived as fair by the PNP, otherwise, there might be demoralization and restiveness in the Officer Corps which will affect the PNP’s ability to enforce laws effectively.
Demoralization means low morale and disenchantment which is bad for any uniformed organization whether military or police.
My experience in matters involving committee deliberations in the PNP is that other considerations like service reputation has a nasty habit of always creeping into the picture.
This is due to the over reliance in the use of the summary of information.
The parameters in the use of this tool must, therefore, be spelled out before anything else.
Fairness demands it.
And with all the perils surrounding an unprecedented exercise such as this, it would be interesting to see how the DILG will navigate this thru and come out of it unscathed.
Let us hope that it does.
I understand why the DILG is taking this extraordinary effort.
Although the intention may be good, it is important that a more thorough study be made so that all tracks are covered.
My advice is not to take things for granted and assume that since everyone seems to be outwardly complying and endorsing the initiative that everything will be alright.
Plans after all do not always turn out the way we want it.