When our protectors become our predators
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-01-06
Philippine National Police (PNP) Senior Inspector Oscar Magsibang of Pasig City had placed in a very bad light the organization he represents that’s tasked to protect the people and the community.

Last December 31, 2010, ABS-CBN’s Henry Omaga Diaz reported on TV Patrol how Senior Inspector Magsibang had menacingly wielded his Baby Armalite as he went berserk in Pasig City over being accosted by an Ortigas Complex security guard for a parking violation. If it’s not bad enough that Magsibang had terrorized the community after he identified himself as a PNP officer and wielded an assault weapon - he even called for backup!

A Chair Wrecker relative happened to be nearby at the time Senior Inspector Oscar Magsibang went “ballistic” after being accosted by the Ortigas Complex security guard. My relative asked not to be named as the source of information and the reason for this request should be dead obvious to everyone. Few Filipinos really trust our cops, never mind if they say there are a few good ones.  

Magsibang was described as having been abusive, arrogant and threatening. With an assault weapon in tow, he challenged the Ortigas Complex security guard to draw his weapon in a tone that the other party can only interpret as an invitation for a fatal counterstrike. “Sige, bunutin mo, bunutin mo! (Go ahead, draw your weapon, draw it!)” Magsibang dared.

Of course, we’re all too familiar by now with hearing the usual story about cops declaring ‘self-defense’ while evidence and witness testimony point to a rub-out.

Not content with projecting rage and invincibility with his Baby Armalite, Magsibang showed more cowardice in the overkill of calling for a backup SWAT team. It was at this point that my informer thought that it was best to leave the vicinity.   

President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) had banned the use of the ‘wang-wang (siren)’ and has stood firm in applying this ban even to himself and his office. This should serve as a warning to those who live by abuse and arrogance that P-Noy means business with DAANG MATUWID (Straight Path).  

Magsibang’s behavior demonstrated what most Filipinos already believe - that most policemen are bullies, liars, immoral, wicked, and devious - in short, criminal. No wonder criminal elements can so easily get away pretending to be cops.  

Compared to the feeling of security we used to have with cops during the 1950s and 1960s, cops now instill feelings of fear and dread in many citizens. From law enforcer, they’ve become not only the law breaker but are now also predators of the law.    

Legislators are trying to outdo each other in increasing fines for offenses without looking at the big picture. What they don’t realize is that the problem with law enforcement can be traced to the law enforcers themselves. By increasing fines and by creating unrealistic procedures, they’re forcing violators to strike up an informal settlement of a lesser ‘fine’ - bribe - with the policeman.     

As predators of the law, the crooked policemen make fools of us all. They mock every Congressman and Senator who delivers fiery speeches on raising fines to deter criminality because these dirty cops know that higher fines mean heftier bribes to them.

The most arrogant of these cops will make us feel like serfs bowing before a local feudal lord. Our taxes pay for their salaries yet they don’t consider themselves public servants.

Former Metro Manila Chair Bayani Fernando had made it profitable for traffic aides and cops to apprehend erring motorists by giving them a commission from the fines. The objective may be good - which is to reduce violations - but it only emboldened the dirty cop and traffic aide to harass motorists to just pay the more convenient bribe. Instead of creating traffic sanity, traffic enforcers focused on making a quick buck from erring motorists even if the act of apprehending causes a major traffic obstacle. For all his good intentions, Bayani Fernando was among the last to know that the traffic officials around him continued taking favors from fake bus and jeepney operators.

Traffic law enforcement is, of course, the least of our worries. The more terrifying reality is finding cops involved with criminal syndicates dealing with drugs, kidnapping, prostitution and everything else of the underworld.  

In high profile cases, the policeman can rise to the occasion and demonstrate great police work and behavior. But if every day instances and personal experiences of each of us with law enforcers do not validate this supposed picture of the model cop, no amount of press statements or public appearances will convince the Filipino that the policeman is our protector.

Magsibang’s outburst is largely perceived as typical cop behavior. It smacks of cowardice and repugnant arrogance. There is also a dangerous brotherhood that seems to bond our cops together, which is hard to break. That’s why the SWAT team responded quickly when Magsibang called for them.

We need to review not only our laws but also their enforcement. We need to step back and refocus on whom the law is meant to serve.

It’s a big challenge to seed and nurture a counter-culture in our despicably rotten police force. Winning back public trust takes a long time, maybe even longer than it took to lose it.
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