Sponsorship Speech: Committee Report on Senate Bill 2031 (Rank Classification in the PNP)

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues of this august chamber, your Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs has the honor to report back for the consideration and approval of this body, Senate Bill 2031 under Committee Report No. 483, authored by this representation, Sen. Grace Poe, and Sen. Sonny Angara, entitled:

An Act Providing for the Rank Classification in the Philippine National Police, Amending for the Purpose Section 28 of RA 6975, as Amended, Otherwise Known as the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990.

As a brief background, Sec. 28 of RA 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990 provides that the rank classification of the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are as follows: Director General; Deputy Director General; Director; Chief Superintendent; Senior Superintendent; Superintendent; Chief Inspector; Senior Inspector; Inspector; Senior Police Officer 4 or SPO4; SPO3; SPO2 and SPO1; and Police Officer 3 or PO3, PO2, and PO1.

Related: Senate Bill 1869, An Act Providing for Rank Classification in the PNP

Essentially, Mr. President, the intent of this legislative proposal is simple – that is to adopt a more common rank nomenclature to standardize the way that our law enforcers are being called.

In order to maintain its clear distinction from the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the ranks to be used in addressing the PNP personnel shall be preceded by the word “Police.”

Mr. President, this measure is geared towards our collective pursuit of eliminating confusion on how our law enforcers must be addressed, and ultimately bringing our policemen closer to the populace.

Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, the Academy of Management, a prestigious institution composed of professionals and scholars, made a study in 2014 that suggests how job titles become vehicles for identity expression and image construction, which then serve as embodiment of how we present ourselves to the world.

Mr. President, dito sa ating bansa, kung ikaw ay nasa ospital, ang tawag mo sa gumagamot sa iyong karamdaman ay ‘Doktor’ o ‘Dok.’ Kung nangangailangan ka ng payo ukol sa mga usaping legal, tinatawag mo ang iyong kausap na ‘Attorney.’ Nguni’t tuwing may kausap tayong alagad ng batas, mas madalas pa nating marinig ang turing na ‘Sarge’ o pinaigsing ‘Sergeant,’ ‘Major’ or ‘Colonel’ kaysa sa tunay na ranggo na ginagamit ng ating kapulisan – PO1, PO2 or SPO1 to SPO4, ‘Inspector,’ and so forth.

Coming from the ranks of the law enforcers, and being the eighth Chief of the PNP, I remember that back then, I was never addressed as ‘Director General’ but rather simply ‘General.’ Admittedly, even I am guilty of still using the military rank assignments when referring to or talking to my former police officers.

Even up to the present time, during interviews or media conferences, members of the PNP themselves unconsciously use the military nomenclature when pertaining to their superiors or fellow police officers. There are also a number of times wherein mainstream media outlets use incorrect police ranks in their reports.

Just this morning, Mr. President, in a surprise inspection conducted by NCRPO director Guillermo Eleazar, one policeman was caught off guard when asked about the rank designation of Chief PNP Albayalde.

Mr. President, an American professor named Edward Tufte once said: “Confusion and clutter are failure of design, not the attributes of information.”

It has been 28 years since the passage of RA 6975, yet the fact remains that almost everyone has been more accustomed to the rank classification using military terminologies in addressing the members of our police force while being aware that they are referring to the police and not the military.

Mr. President, there is a psychological phenomenon that tells us that people tend to develop preference for things or people that they are more familiar with. Another social theory also postulates that familiar names are judged more positively than those difficult to recall.

Further, as a former law enforcer myself, I understand our policemen when they attest that similar ranks between the PNP and counterpart members of the AFP will be advantageous in terms of enhancing their interoperability.

Mr. President, the PNP manual spells out that the ‘PNP units may either operate as a single force or as part of joint PNP-AFP combat operations. In both cases, lateral coordination is a must…’ (Sec. 2, Rule 28)

Experiences both of our policemen and soldiers tell us that unnecessary lags occur when one still finds it necessary to check who his or her counterpart from the police or military is.

As hyperbolic as it may sound, we cannot afford any delay in coordination in counter-terrorism operations and operations against other threats to national security. You and I would agree that a split second matters if the safety and lives of our people are at stake.

In addition, Mr. President, pushing for this measure will spare our policemen the time of explaining their equivalent ranks to foreign police forces in order to determine the protocol that must come in order every time they are attending regional or international policing engagement.

Distinguished colleagues, some in this hall may be raising eyebrows against this proposal due to the concern that this may mean that we are in effect ‘militarizing’ the police.

Such apprehension stems from the Constitutional provision that the State shall establish and maintain one police force which shall be national in scope and civilian in character.

Hence, we sought the opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to give its position on the constitutionality of this measure.

The DOJ, through a letter duly signed by Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar dated 10 August 2018, gave this proposed measure a thumbs-up as it ‘finds no clear and categorical infringement of the Constitution.’ Further, the DOJ maintains its position that ‘the proposed amendment does not change the civilian character of the national police force, as provided under Sec. 6 Art. XVI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The adoption of the military equivalent rank does not imply transfer of control over the PNP from civilian authority to the military. The PNP remains to be civilian in character, administered and controlled by the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).’

The NAPOLCOM also expressed its full support to the proposal of amending the present rank classification of the members of the PNP through a position paper dated 10 August 2018. The Commission underscored that ‘the civilian character of the PNP was already achieved when it was removed from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.’

Mr. President, the amendments being proposed by this bill hew to said premise – the Philippine National Police shall continue to adopt a service-oriented outlook in consonance with its existing police-community relations doctrine consistent with its sworn duty ‘To Serve and Protect.’

As a final word, Mr. President, pushing for this measure has in fact reminded this representation of a sensible discussion in a book that I read about character and ethics in policing. The author in the name of Edwin Delattre emphasized, and I wish to paraphrase:

“If police are to have the weight of law-abiding citizens on their side, they must make clear that they are eager to know the primary concerns of the public, and more importantly, that they want to be known as individuals to the members of the community.”

Thank you, Mr. President.


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