"Will the general have enough time?"
The Philippine National Police evokes a host of emotions among Filipinos. On paper, it is the organization mandated to protect the civilian population, and this protection is supposed to be a source of comfort and security for Filipinos.
Many incidents in recent memory, however, have led us to feel otherwise.
We have been all too aware of instances when members of the police force protected the corrupt and favored the powerful over the weak. The war against illegal drugs, for example, has emboldened some of them to take liberties with the law. Power and position have led some police officials to feel entitled to break the laws they are supposed to implement. They have harmed or even killed people they perceived to be uncooperative. During this period of the pandemic, they have used the prescribed health protocol to play god and flaunt their power, instead of impressing upon the people why the guidelines have to be followed in the first place.
As a result, many Filipinos view the police with mistrust and apprehension.
This month, a new chief takes the rein of the PNP. Police Lt. General Guillermo Eleazar has made promises about cleansing the ranks of the organization, appointing more deserving officers to key posts, and introducing real reform to the embattled law enforcement agency. He has also promised an end to red-tagging of administration critics, a practice that has brought great distress and danger to those who have been named.
The new chief brings with him his credentials and good reputation from previous assignments.
But will he have enough time to do the things he committed to do? Eleazar will reach the mandatory retirement age in November this year, giving him only six months to serve at the helm of the PNP.
Certainly, six months is too short to preside over an entire transformation program, or to begin preparations for the national elections in May next year. But if Eleazar says the right words and does the right things in his brief time in office, then he would set a precedent that his successors will aspire to. If he is lucky, the reforms he would have initiated would be too embedded in the PNP and thus difficult to reverse.
It’s time the PNP is seen as a true protector—that is, a protector of the people and not only of the powerful, and certainly not the corrupt.