The Philippine National Police is now 31 years old.
Before the PNP, we had the PC/INP with Philippine Constabulary as the national police force and all the local police forces under it till 1992.
To the public, the transition from the Constabulary-led police force to the PNP might have been just business as usual but there is actually a huge difference between the two if the public wants to understand better how the PNP currently operates.
Although we now have a national police force that is civilian in character unlike the Constabulary which was essentially a military organization, the PNP has never really gotten rid of its military orientation and culture.
This matters when we talk of the concept of Esprit de Corps, unit cohesion and loyalty and want to analyze and understand the recent instruction given by PNP General Benjamin Acorda Jr to his subordinates when he was appointed as PNP Chief.
It takes 100 years to develop a tradition as we often hear.
Thirty-one years of the PNP is therefore not enough to have built a civilian police culture in the PNP.
This is partly because the PNP is still being run by the last remaining military officers who began their careers in the Constabulary.
Even if all the Philippine Military Academy graduates are retired, it is doubtful whether the PNP will become truly a civilian organization, given that the PNP Academy is a clone of the PMA.
Let us hope, however, the PNP will eventually become truly ‘civilianized.’
When that will happen is hard to say but will largely depend whether along the line the PNP gets a leader that is far sighted with the vision to get the PNP to follow what the Constitution wants.
Over the last 25 years, every PNP officer appointed PNP Chief comes out with grand statements to inform the public on how he intends to improve the PNP. General Benjamin Acorda Jr did just that and added more plans during last Monday’s flag ceremony in Camp Crame.
Another thing that he did, however, that was different from all his predecessors was to tell his subordinate officers particularly the junior officers to document all illegal activities of their superiors and report these directly to him or something to that effect.
This is apparently his attempt like so many other attempts in the past to grapple with the issue of scalawags in uniform.
And having been the erstwhile Chief of Intelligence of the PNP, he wants to use counter intelligence to do battle with corrupt police personnel.
I am sure the intention of General Acorda is good.
But as a friendly advice, he should rethink this carefully and be extremely cautious.
He should bear in mind that many roads are paved with good intentions that do not always end the way they are intended.
Sometimes, it could actually make matters worse.
Besides, he should consider how long he will be at the helm of the PNP and whether he has the time to accomplish all that he has in mind with the time allotted to him as PNP Chief.
Considering that length of time of his tenure, it might well be all over before he can even warm his seat. So, he must be realistic on what he hopes to leave behind as his legacy.
Part of the problem here is that unlike in the AFP wherein the tenure of the Chief of Staff is now fixed by law, such is not the case with the PNP.
Perhaps, he may want to spearhead an effort for Congress to pass a similar law and leave that as his legacy.
But let us go back to General Acorda’s advice to subordinate officers.
Why is this not such a good idea?
Because his instructions have the real potential of affecting the long cherished concept of Esprit de Corps and loyalty that has been inculcated in the mind of every service personnel.
Such instructions could destroy the trust that exist within a unit.
A command cannot function effectively if everybody cannot trust the people one is working with.
No one wants to be looking over his shoulders every time one wants to do something for fear of being reported.
Unit cohesion can be negatively impacted if this becomes a standard operating procedure.
The current administrative structure that deals with infractions is enough to handle disciplinary and administrative investigations if done efficiently as it should be. There is no need to take extraordinary measures to find out who are the scalawags in uniform because many of these people are actually already known in the service.
All that has to be done is initiate the proper investigation.
Problem is, it takes a big scandal similar to what happened to that P6.7B drug haul to spark action.
Discipline and professionalism together with leadership by example is really the better way to tackle problems of this nature.
But as we can see, it is hard to resist temptations especially if one is preparing for retirement.
That is why there is a need to concentrate on eradicating the culture within the uniformed service that allows infractions to go unpunished.
As an old hand, I would advise the good General to withdraw or rethink his instructions to junior officers to report on their superiors before it does irreparable damage to the service that we all — active and retired personnel – care for so much.