Trials and triumphs: Upholding the commitment to serve and protect

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

December 27, 2023, 6:11 pm

<p>PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The year 2023 has proven to be a moment of ups and downs for the Philippine National Police (PNP), as it saw trials and triumphs in fulfilling its mandate to serve and protect – from undertaking an intense crackdown on "narco police officers", dealing with an uptick in election-related incidents, achieving a lower crime rate and top cop seeing a term extension.

Radical cleansing

At the start of the year, controversies rocked the police force after Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos Jr. called on all police colonels and generals to submit their courtesy resignation in a radical move to cleanse the institution of those linked to illegal drugs.

The move came a few months after the October 2022 drug operation in Manila that yielded 990 kg. of shabu worth PHP6.7 billion and led to the arrest of dismissed police master sergeant Rodolfo Mayo Jr., which exposed a drug recycling scheme involving police officers.

A five-member committee composed of retired police general and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, then defeated senatorial bet and now Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., then PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr., Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Undersecretary for Police Affairs Isagani Nerez and retired Court of Appeals Justice Melchor Sadang screened the courtesy resignations of more than 900 third-level police officials.

On April 10, Abalos revealed that ranking PNP officials were seen in a video footage of the operation.

Abalos said some police officers took 42 kg. of shabu before the inventory of the confiscated 990 kg. of illegal drugs based on the CCTV footage.

Just a day after his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. accepted the resignation of 18 third-level officers of the PNP who are allegedly involved in illegal drug activities, based on the recommendation of the National Police Commission Ad Hoc Advisory Group that investigated the matter.

Meanwhile, the advisory group recommended the non-acceptance of the courtesy resignation of 935 other police officials.

The Department of Justice said a panel of prosecutors has been constituted to handle additional complaints arising from the operation.

Higher poll violence incidents; focus crimes down

The number of validated election-related incidents (ERIs) more than doubled for this year's Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) 2023 compared to figures from the previous polls.

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said a total of 105 validated ERIs were recorded during the election period from Aug. 28 to Nov. 29 -- an increase of 65 incidents from 40 validated ERIs during the 2018 polls.

Fajardo, however, said these incidents did not mar the overall electoral process and that no recorded failure of elections nationwide.

Meanwhile, a total of 29 people were killed while 100 others were injured in these incidents.

Fajardo said a total of 2,672 persons were also arrested during the implementation of a nationwide gun ban for the BSKE.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 19 this year, the police force recorded 37,089 focus crime incidents or 8.22 percent lower than the 40,411 incidents logged in the same period in 2022.

Classified as focus crimes are murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, theft, robbery, vehicle theft and motorcycle theft.

The PNP has also recorded a 67-percent drop in focus crimes during this year’s Christmas Eve compared to last year.

Based on its data, the PNP said 34 incidents were recorded on Dec. 24 this year as compared to 101 incidents from last year.

Extended tenure

For the first time, a sitting President extended the PNP chief’s tour of duty for his good handling of internal security initiatives.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has extended the term of PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. until March 31, 2024. He was supposed to retire from the service upon turning 56 on Dec. 3.

Executive Order 136, series of 1999, recognizes the power of the President to extend the service of presidential appointees beyond the compulsory retirement age for exemplary meritorious reasons.

Acorda, then PNP’s director for intelligence, was appointed as the country’s 29th top cop on April 24.

Marawi blast

On the day of Acorda’s supposed retirement, the PNP dealt with another major security incident – the bombing at a Mass inside the Mindanao State University gymnasium in Marawi City that killed four and injured dozens.

On Dec. 6, the PNP identified two members of the Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group as the culprits behind the bombing -- Kadapi Mimbesa alias 'Engineer' and Arsani Membesa alias 'Khatab', 'Hatab' and 'Lapitos'.

On the same day, military troops arrested another suspect in the incident -- Jafar Gamo Sultan alias "Jaf" and "Kurot."

Women power

Women have also proven to shine in the police force – a profession dominated by men.

Data from the PNP showed there are 41,780 females serving in the country's law enforcement agency, comprising 18.32 percent of the 228,000-strong police force.

Of the figure, 2,978 are officers while 38,802 are non-commissioned officers.

Two ranking female police officers made history this year -- Col. Jean Fajardo, who became the first female chief of the PNP’s Public Information Office and Brig. Gen. Portia Manalad, the director of the Women and Children Protection Center.

Manalad, the sole woman who graduated from her batch in 1995, is the first-ever female police general from the PNP Academy.

She has led numerous operations that led to the rescue of women and children from human trafficking and sexual abuse.

Another female police who was named to a key post is Col. Grace Madayag, the chief of police of Mandaluyong City.

Meanwhile, 14 of the country’s 17 police regional offices have female law enforcers as their public information officers. These include the National Capital Region Police Office, represented by its spokesperson, Lt. Col. Eunice Salas. (PNA)