Gen. Debold Sinas and Sgt. Jonel Nuezca

By: Ramon J. Farolan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | December 28,2020 - 08:30 AM

What do Gen. Debold Sinas, chief Philippine National Police, and Police Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca have in common? Both have a strong and proud sense of entitlement that operates in an environment of impunity. Under this combination of circumstances, the lives of ordinary citizens are often at risk.

General Sinas felt he was entitled to a “mañanita” since he was the powerful chief of the National Capital Region Police Office. He knew about the planned birthday bash and allowed it to take place in violation of rules and regulations designed to halt the spread of COVID-19. If he feigned ignorance of the planned party, he must be a terrible intelligence officer since he did not have any inkling as to what was being planned by his men.

Staff Sergeant Nuezca decided he was entitled to some peace and quiet, and when not shown the respect and obedience due a high ranking police noncommissioned officer, he decided that he could take the law in his own hands, shooting two people in the head at point-blank range. Perhaps he felt supremely confident that he could get away with it, just as his boss was able to evade any punishment eventually moving up to the position of PNP chief over the heads of senior police lieutenant generals.

As I wrote in an earlier column, there is a vital link between leadership by example and discipline in the ranks. Soldiers and police follow the rules and obey orders when they observe that the leader imposes the same conditions on himself. When this does not take place, a sense of entitlement combined with impunity leads to a dangerous situation.

The New York Times in a recent article, written by Jason Gutierrez, pointed out “the shootings are the latest in a series of killings involving the Philippine National Police which is currently the focus of an international investigation. The International Criminal Court (ICC) said last week it believed that there was evidence to support claims that the authorities had committed crimes against humanity as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs in the Philippines.”

“Many members of the Philippine police are simply out of control,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “As with many incidents of recent police violence, the killing by Nuezca of Sonya Gregorio and her son, Frank, was brazen and underscores the impunity that prevails in the Philippines,“ he said. “It took place in the context of an enabling environment for police violence that President Duterte himself has encouraged.”

The only way to salvage any good from this senseless tragedy and save whatever remains of the tattered image of the PNP is for General Sinas to issue a formal apology to the Filipino people and submit a letter of resignation, bearing in mind the principle of command responsibility over the cold-blooded murder of a mother and her son. Of course, we are dreaming and this will not happen anytime soon. But we must say it. At times, the best and the most decent thing a man can do is to simply go away.

There are other subjects that I had wanted to comment on before the year ends especially as regards our public servants in government. Let me dwell on just one more. We need more teamwork and less grandstanding, less of the “I” and more of the “We.” We don’t need brilliant minds. We need men of plain common sense along with a large dose of humility. Let us keep in mind that in the final analysis, it is Our Father in Heaven who gives, and in the end who takes, regardless of who drops the ball.

Our wishes for the New Year are usually about happiness and prosperity. I pray for a return to sanity under a leadership that inspires and provides equal and speedy justice for all our people.

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