Cebu City dad to victims of police abuse: Do not let ‘incident’ scare you to silence
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu City Councilor Philip Zafra is encouraging residents who have experienced police abuse to not let the killing of a major witness in the alleged rape and extortion case of 11 Barangay Sawang Calero policemen scare them into silence.
Zafra said that he understands that the death of Ritchie Nepomuceno, one of the victims of alleged police abuse, on the evening of April 19, 2021, would deter others from speaking out for fear of their lives.
The incident was not favorable to the police, considering that one of the suspects killed himself shortly after Nepomuceno died and people have been questioning why Police Staff Sergeant Celso Colita had access to a gun inside a police building.
The two gruesome incidents may cause the public to fear the police and refuse to speak out if ever they experienced abuses in their hands.
However, Zafra assured that the government has a check and balance system to protect them if they are abused by one agency and help them undergo the legal process of filing complaints, investigations, and court charges.
The councilor said that they can always trust their barangay officials and the city government if they have “legitimate complaints” of abuses about the police and other law enforcement agencies as they will help the victims connect with the right agencies.
“Maoy usa sa akong nadawat nga concerns gikan sa atong mga residente. Makasabot man ta ang atong mga tawo makabati og kahadlok pero akong ipasalig nila nga naa pay daghan dinha sa organisasyon sa kapulisan, kasagaran nila maayo.”
“Sa pagkakaron, naa man daghang maduolan. Naa ang mga barangay officials, naa mi nga pwede ninyo kasangpitan,” he said.
(Those are the concerns I am receiving from our residents. Iunderstand that the public will feel scared but I can assure them that there are still a lot within the police organization who are good people. As of now, they also have a lot of people they can approach. There are the barangay officials and they can also call on us.)
Yet the help of the city government does not stop with the victims of these so-called abuses.
The councilor said the bigger help is needed by the police in order to “police their own ranks” and clear their reputation following the gruesome incident that may have tarnished the view of the public of them.
As a member of the peace and advisory council of the city, Zafra said the council is now working on providing programs for policemen that would not only tackle their discipline, enforcement of the law but also tackle their mental health.
He added that the city government is willing to provide as much aid as it can to the police in order to keep the peace and order in the city even if it means starting from their own ranks.
The councilor urged the police to work harder in their connection to the community to fix this seemingly broken bridge of trust between the organization and the public after the incident.
The morale may be low for the police now, but the incident should be a learning lesson for the organization to be more aware of the faults in the system.
Zafra also encouraged thorough background checks for law enforcement applicants not only police but other enforcers such as the tanods and the Task Force Kasaligan.
“Dako-dako sad ang buhatunon sa kadagkuan sa atong kapulisan nga aron marestore, mabalik ang kompyansa sa tawo sa organisasyon. Magsugod ta sa constant training, orientation sa mga kapulisan. Kato sad mga applikante, tarungon ang pagcheck sa background,” he added.
(The top officials of the police have a lot of work to do to restore the public’s confidence on the organization. It has to start with constant training, orientation of all policemen. Backgrounds of applicants should also be checked well.)
The councilor said that the public’s view of the police is not favorable, but this should also not be a reason to lose faith entirely.
He urged the public to remember that only a portion of the police force has been led astray and most of them are still serving the public as they have promised.
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