CABUYAO, Laguna – “Nakotongan na naman ako (I was extorted from again).”
These words of exasperation from his late father Buenaventura spurred a young Panfilo “Ping” Lacson to fight not just kotong but all forms of corruption.
Lacson recalled how his father would come home too exhausted to eat, but still worrying he could not provide for his family because corrupt policemen extorted from him.
“Pawis na pawis siya at pagod na pagod. Halos hindi na makakain ng hapunan kasi pagod na. ‘Nakotongan na naman ako kaya ang ihahain sa hapag kainan ay nabawasan’ (I recall my father coming home very tired after a full day of work. He was too exhausted to even eat. But he was sad he could not buy enough food for us, all because corrupt cops extorted from him),” Lacson, who as Philippine National Police chief (1999-2001) stopped the kotong culture in the police institution, said at a program here.
“Maybe subliminally naalala ko ang aking ama, at ina na nagbebenta sa palengke ng tela – hindi pwedeng magpatuloy itong kotong sa PNP. Hindi lang dahil sa aking ama; dahil sa libo-libong driver ng jeepney, driver ng taxi at driver ng bus at PUV, tapos ang manggugulay (Maybe subliminally I remembered my father who worked as a jeepney driver and my mother who sold textiles in the market – this extortion cannot go on. And this is not just for my father. This is for the drivers of public utility vehicles like jeepneys, taxis and buses – as well as traders),” he added.
He said vegetable traders in the 1990s would have to shell out as much as P1,000 at “checkpoints” where corrupt policemen would demand payoffs. They would have no choice but to pass on the “cost” to buyers in the form of higher prices.
But once Lacson ended the “kotong cop” culture when he headed the PNP, people felt the effect in the form of lower prices of vegetables.
“Anong tama niyan sa amin bilang pangkaraniwang mamamayan? Nagmura ang gulay at bilihin (What was the effect on the ordinary Filipino? Prices of vegetables and other commodities went down),” he said.
In a gathering in his hometown of Imus in Cavite on Friday, Lacson said his late father’s problem instilled in him the drive to grapple with the problem instead of merely “studying” it. “Pag nakakita ng problema, grapple with the problem. Ora mismo i-solve ang problema (If I see a problem, I will grapple with it immediately),” he said.
During his term as PNP chief from 1999 to 2001, Lacson managed to get rid of scalawags in uniform and earned back for the PNP the trust of the public through his “No to Kotong Policy” and brand of leadership by example.
Even after becoming senator, Lacson said his drive to stop wrongdoing – particularly corruption – has not abated.