By the book campaign
It would be wishful thinking to say that there are no “gangster cops” in Central Visayas, let alone Metro Cebu as what Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) chief, declared in response to the PNP’s return to the war on illegal drugs.
There are bound to be some rotten eggs somewhere down the line, like the cops who extorted from the wife of a South Korean businessman days after they executed him on illegal drug charges.
Then there are the cops who executed teen drug suspects and adult drug suspects far from the glare of security cameras. While there are few, if any, reports of police officers in Cebu tagged in extrajudicial killings, it doesn’t mean that they are non-existent.
Which is why Espino is quite adamant that the reactivated anti-drug enforcement units (DEU) will coordinate with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in conducting the campaign against illegal drugs “by the book.”
Easier said than done but with the delivery of body camera units for the police and a series of procedures to be followed, there is a good chance that the death toll will drop if they strictly comply with the procedures.
For one, requiring the police to first coordinate with the PDEA prior to the operation means they simply don’t dive head first without someone checking things twice.
A post-audit report of sorts will also be required for police officers who got involved in an operation that resulted in the death/s of a drug suspect/s. Far too often, a suspect’s death had been explained away as a result of armed, violent resistance.
There are too many accounts, however, of suspects being dragged away, never to be seen again until their remains are found dumped in an isolated area.
Given these facts, the PRO-7’s twin declarations of no “gangster cops” and “by the book” operations sound like seemingly tall orders with very little relation to actual reality and experience especially under an administration whose vow to end criminality only resulted in higher death tolls and very little change.
It’s not like it cannot be done but, too often, promises of cash prizes in return for dead criminals proves to be more tempting than actually going through the tedious work of evidence gathering and case building, which may be more than what the ordinary beat cop and his mid-level superiors are capable of doing.
For now though, cleaning the ranks and waging a by-the-book campaign is a challenge worth pursuing by our police, who must win both the war against illegal drugs and the campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people.
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