Doing What We Say: Speech at PNP Night

Police General Ping Lacson headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001.

Speech at PNP Night tendered by the Manila Overseas Press Club
Manila Hotel Ballroom

This is the first time I am given the privilege to address the prestigious Manila Overseas Press Club. This privilege comes on my ninth month as Chief of the Philippine National Police. Hence, I have chosen to deal on what we have been doing so far. I hope to touch also on some problems confronting the PNP.

What exactly are the responsibilities of the policeman and policewoman, regardless of rank, position and place of duty? These are three. One, to prevent crime together with the community. Two, to solve crime according to the mandates of our Criminal Justice System. Three, and while doing both, to live a simple, decent, and dignified life both as a person and as a professional.

These responsibilities are demanded by the nature of the police service. They are, in fact, the highest expectations by the Filipino people. Interestingly, our people have also made known the priorities that PNP should take. One, stopping illegal drugs. Two, breaking up organized, syndicated crime. Three, cleansing the police.

Let me first dispose of these three priorities in the minds and hearts of our people.

In February of last year in the town of Hagonoy, Bulacan, H.E. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada pronounced narcotics abuse and trafficking as our country’s Public Enemy No. 1. Six months later, in Luneta and during the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) rally, the President expressed his strongest warning to the drug traffickers with these words: I do not promise you hell. I will bring you there.

I am very happy to inform you tonight that we have been very successful in the campaign against narcotics abuse and trafficking. The supply continues to be solidly constricted. The demand also continues to be dampened by higher costs arising from lower supply.

As to police officers who have been involved – as abusers or traffickers or both – all I can tell you is that they are now wishing they were never born. They have been told not to expect tender mercies from our criminal justice system, and certainly not from the PNP.

The success of our anti-narcotics program is principally due to the exercise of a certain power – the power of coordination among law enforcement agencies and between them and the community. In January last year, the President organized the National Drug Enforcement and Prevention Coordinating Center and appointed Police Deputy Director General Jewel Canson to manage it. The Center was organized precisely to maximize the power – the power of coordination.

Also in the same month, the President established the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, an agency to combat crimes without borders such as narcotics. This is today headed by Police Director Leandro Mendoza. This Center was also organized to provide a global link between our country and others against transnational violence and crime.

The second most urgent concern of our people which PNP must focus on is organized, syndicated crime. They are saying that narcotics is number one but there are many otheer organized crimes like bank robbery, carnapping, kidnap-for-ransom, human smuggling, terrorism, and so on. All of them must be terminated at the same time as narcotics trafficking.

As early as the Presidency of President Estrada, the breaking up of organized crime went into full gear with the establishment of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force in July of 1998. Incidentally, PAOCTF will be having its second founding anniversary this month.

How have we fared against organized crimes in this country? Let me give you some figures.

A very important indicator of public safety – or its absence – is the volume of index crimes of the heinous variety in a given period. These crimes are more reliably and regularly reported; hence, index or measurable input for decision-making. They are heinous because of the gravity of the offense and the punishment they carry such as death or life imprisonment.

For the First Semester of CY 2000 (January to June), a heinous crime volume (HCV) of 5,293 was reported to, and recorded by, the PNP across the country. They include crimes of murder, rape, kidnapping, carnapping, narco-abuse and trafficking, robbery, parricide, infanticide, arson, plunder, qualified bribery, treason and qualified piracy.

This year’s first semester HCV has dropped by a big 36% from 8,310 HCV of the First Semester of CY 1999. The dramatic decrease was largely due to the community-government war of intense attrition against heinous crimes.

That the Abu Sayyaf KFR syndicate has managed to do us in, is unfortunate. But even this evil will be concluded sooner than soon. In my experience on KFR cases, I do not remember any syndicate that can last longer than the arms of the law. But I can remember hostages who outlasted and outsmarted their kidnappers. The Abu Sayyaf is going the same course straight to its destruction.

The third priority concern of our people is the cleansing of the PNP of what I have called ICUs – the Inept, Corrupt and Undisciplined police officers. This subject is closest to my heart.

Makabago at Nagbabagong PNP

The real reason why our people have learned to approve the PNP is not our success on crime prevention. Crimes have continued to happen in this valley of toils and tears.

It is also not because of our crime solution efficiency. As of the first semester this year, our index crime solution efficiency is well below 100%. We have improved but only by 1.66% from 86.66% to 88.32%.

I think the real reason is that – for the first time in the PNP history – we meant what we said, we did what we meant, to cleanse the PNP of its scalawags. We honored our word. And we are going to honor it some more – even long after the camera lights are off.

When I became Chief, PNP in November last year, I offered a principle by which to lead the PNP. I said: What is right must be kept right. What is wrong must be set right.

I knew the things that were right in PNP – and I was encouraged. But I was disturbed by the things that were wrong. For until those wrongs were set right, keeping the things that were right would be no different to the legend of Sisyphus who kept rolling a stone up a hill only to rll down the same stone and up again for all eternity. The last thing I ever wanted to be was to become a Sisyphus.

Thus, I had to set many things right. I think you know all of them: no more golf during office hours, no more wastage of resources, no more potbellied police officers, and no more taking. This no-take policy is what ushered in a makabago at nagbabagong PNP.

Some people never for a moment believed – then – that kotong would ever be terminated with finality. I did. That SPO2 Rodelio Cagampan and PO1 Rizaldo Custodio of the Western Police District did not only violate the policy but even went out of their evil way to murder their victim, is very regrettable. That is, however, an exception.

Some people never for a moment believed – then – that the practice of appropriating carnapped vehicles for their personal use would ever be terminated with finality. I did. A few did not obey. Now, they have nowhere to go.

Then I unloaded the mother of all policies: The No-Take Policy. This no-take policy took its severest test in the case of jueteng, Masiao and other illegal sources. I told everyone never again to receive money from jueteng and other illegal sources. Some did not take me seriously. Now they are in serious trouble for the rest of their careers in the police service.

In my career as military and police officer in the last 29 years, I can recall several major experiences that altered the course of my life. Two happened in Manila, one in Cebu City, the other in Laguna.

I was then MetroDisCom Cebu Commander when a KFR incident took place. I was sure of two things: one, to rescue the KFR victim safely; and two, to arrest the kidnappers and bring them behind bars. I succeeded to do both.

Then, something unexpected happened. The family of the rescued victim offered to give me some financial reward. I was not sure if the giver was doing right. But I was absolutely sure that accepting the reward was totally wrong. I gently ignored the offer.

In Laguna, where I was Provincial Commander, jueteng was prevalent and police officers were on the take and in earnest. On my first day with the police there, I told them not to receive any money from jueteng and other illegal sources. I told them to hang me right on the flagpole if they would hear anything to suggest that I was getting money from the lords of vice in Laguna.

Nobody hanged me. But I woke up one morning only to read my relief as Provincial Commander of Laguna. The ancient Romans used to say: O Tempora, O Mores!

That was a sad day for Laguna and the police. But deep in my heart I knew what peace of mind was all about. It is simply doing what is right and setting right what is wrong.

By taking out the ICUs, am I trying to produce angels in police uniform? I have never thought of that. My belief is very simple: If we cannot cleanse the PNP of its dregs, how can we cleanse society of criminal derelicts?

It takes a thief to catch another? I do not think so. It only takes a good police officer to catch the criminal elements of society, including the scalawags in uniform.

No, I am not producing angels at all. I am only adding more humanity to our police officers. This is the humanity to serve the community with honor. This is the humanity to protect the citizenry with justice.

It is really good that we keep cleansing the body of its toxins. But that is never good enough. We also need to put in more nutrients to keep the cells alive and anew. In the PNP today, these nutrients come in the form of basic directives and initiatives which I have called A.I.D.E.

A is for Aptitude that is professional. I is for Integrity that is moral. D is for Discipline that is organizational. And E is for Equipment that is functional.

Policing is a first-rate profession only for first-rate professionals. Police officers must be crime-prevention artists as we are trying to have them become in our Community-Oriented Policing System. They also must be crime-investigation scientists who take testimonial evidence for what is worth and go beyond it through the analysis of data derived from other sources. We can prevent crime. But we must solve it when it happens.

Without professional aptitude, we are left with nothing but INEPT police officers. They go to work and go home as a matter of routine .They never prevent a crime. Worse, they never know how to arrest, charge, and help convict beyond reasonable doubt the offender. In court during trial, they are as short and stupid as Sisyphus.

Moral integrity can be stated in every text, in every code, but you know that virtue can never be legislated. I have punished our corrupt officers not because I have hated them. It was just a simple duty to do.

But punishment is never enough. The community must speak out against police officers whose moral integrity is in doubt. There is no bar higher than public opinion. There is no messenger stronger than media even if occasionally incorrect.

This civic duty of the citizens to speak out is best tested in their courage to testify. I mention this point in the wake of reports that the witnesses against the two Manila police scalawags – I mentioned earlier – have shown reluctance to testify to the truth of what they saw and known in person. These witnesses must be encouraged by all means and protected under our laws. And the WPD must assure us now of such encouragement and protection.

It is time we showed no fear to scoundrels in police uniform. They are a tiny minority. And they are without power that lasts.

Organizational discipline is not what you have just heard about the PNP Special Action Force firing their guns with abandon in Sulu. This unit I can tell you has discipline. That unit in Sulu is the exception. And we are going to throw the books on them without any reservation.

Assuming for a moment that we have achieved the ideal – that is, no more ICUs and all police officers have AID or professional Aptitude, moral Integrity and organizational Discipline – are we ready to terminate violence with finality? I have my doubts.

In this new world of transnational crime and cyber-terrorism, we need Equipment that is functional. Just to give you an idea of what we need: For every 100 mobile vehicles, we have only 33, some of which are not even mobile enough.

Should we cry jihad against our modernization inadequacy? This leads me to the birth of the PNP Foundation.

Not too long ago, I suggested to President Estrada an alternative medicine to the acquired immunity deficiency syndrome of police modernization. I said – and quite rightly so – that government money can never be more than enough. There are plainly more mouths to feed than hands to do the feeding. Thus, I discussed with him the propriety – and even legality – of asking those who have more in life to give more for law, for the Police in particular.

My suggestion finally bore fruit when on June 28, many captains of industry gathered here at the Manila Hotel. They organized the PNP Foundation, put their money, and agreed to manage the Foundation themselves.

Let me make it very clear: The money is their money. The Foundation is theirs. Whatever they choose to do with their money, is their own. And PNP has nothing to do with the Foundation except to wait for the Foundation to procure the necessary equipment of the police.

I make this statement to clear the air. Some critics have made it appear that we in the PNP have something to do with the running of the Foundation. We have none.

Some critics have it appear that the money pledged by businessmen for the Foundation will be remitted to the PNP. That is a deception.

Some critics have made it appear that the Foundation will donate money to PNP. That is hallucination.

The truth is rather this: When the Foundation earns something from its seed money, it will buy the equipment and donate it to the PNP.

From whom the money comes, is a choice made by those who run and manage the Foundation. PNP has absolutely nothing to do with the management of the Foundation. Only Foundation officers do.

I heard it said – time and time again – that one should be ashamed to die until and unless he has shared his resources with those who need them most. Life is never lost when shared; it is only fully lived.

We are renewing tonight our pledge and cooperation and promise of cohesion. This is not the time to look back to what can haunt us. This is the time to look forward and bring the future upfront and upward.

Katulad ng paulit-ulit na sinasabi ng ating mahal na Pangulo, Presidente Estrada:

Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kundi kapwa Pilipino.

I have just re-echoed the mind of the President for a very clear purpose. Namely, we need to support him in his dream to bring progress and peace to Mindanao.

Let us, then, give him by law what he needs to do his duty. And we will be doing more to Mindanao than what the critics can ever allow us to do.

Once more, I want to thank all of you for this renewal of mutual trust and confidence between MOPC and PNP. Let us together make it work – for this country, for this generation, for all seasons.

Maraming salamat po!