Integrity in the PNP

(published 08 February 2015, MST)

This was the plan. For the 24th founding anniversary of the Philippine National Police on January 26, there would be a ceremonial signing of the Integrity Pledge for individual members of the PNP and their commanders or unit heads.
All police generals would be assembled at Camp Crame that Monday morning and together with their men and women, they would reiterate their commitment to ethical living and ethical leadership. Representatives of the “external shareholders”—from the business community, the religious, and civil society, were invited to witness the signing of the pledge. 
The event, scheduled to be led by Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Manuel Roxas II and PNP Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, was supposed to be celebratory as it was ceremonial. It was an anniversary, after all. Moreover, affixing one’s signature on a piece of paper containing a pledge is always an affirmation of one’s commitment. Only the vile would sign a written promise and then deliberately do something that goes against what has been pledged.
As it turned out, the flag was raised that morning but was brought back down to half-mast. It was the day after the Mamasapano clash where, as we know now, 44 members of the Special Action Force were killed.
The activity pushed through, the speakers did speak, but the mood was somber. At that point, the details of what had happened over the weekend were still not known. What was clear was that SAF members who had gone on a mission had been killed.
What followed were days of grief, blame tossing,anger and outrage, pushing the worthy program back to obscurity outside of the PNP.
There is clearly a gap between where we are and where we’d like to be, says CPSM Director Police Senior Superintendent Noel Baraceros. He is the first to admit that the PNP as an organization suffers from low credibility—low trust, and questionable integrity. What they would like to be is a highly credible organization, trusted and respected by the people.
The gaps are many. What comes to mind is the formula Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion - Accountability, Baraceras says that the present organization enjoys wide discretion and little accountability. The resulting poor public perception of the PNP by the public it seeks to serve, therefore, comes as no surprise.
The Integrity Enhancement Program, completed last year and is again up for review in 2016, takes a value chain approach to addressing the integrity issues of the PNP. It starts with reviewing existing policies that have a bearing on how the members are supposed to do their jobs. What laws, mechanisms and systems are in place, and what seem to be lacking?
Next is a review of capacities. One may have the best policies but not the capacity to ensure their implementation. Currently, Baraceras says, all these are the function of the Internal Affairs Service, which is a small office relative to the sheer number of personnel— 150,000—it must keep track of.
Prevention and Education come next. CPSM recognizes that change comes from within. The PNP thus takes great pains to give personal governance inputs to its members.
Despite these, irregular acts are committed, so the value chain likewise includes enforcement of policies, making sure that rehabilitation becomes a key part of the punishment. And then, rewards and incentives are contemplated for those who act as they must.
Finally, monitoring and evaluation close the loop, and ensure that the program is sustained, reviewed and enhanced over time.
According to Baraceras, one of the most important aspects of the Integrity Enhancement Program is the presence of the National Advisory Group composed of external stakeholders: the religious, the youth, businessmen, civil society, the academe. “Sometimes, you need people from the outside to tell you what you have been doing is good or bad.”
During the January 26 event, there were two sets of pledge that were signed: one for individual personnel and another for leaders and commanders.
“Things change when people change,” so goes a phrase from the pledges, which also contain, among others, a recognition that the “hard work and sacrifices of predecessors are being challenged in this era of perceived lack of integrity, tarnishing the good image of the institution, slowly eroding the trust and confidence of the people and communities we have sworn to serve and protect.”
To this day, flowers, candles and heartfelt messages line the entrance to the PNP headquarter in Camp Crame. Perhaps an unintended consequence of what happened in Mamasapano was that people were reminded that many of our policemen, despite the rotten eggs in places high and low, are still mindful of their duty and still act as genuine public servants.
Whereas policemen were perceived as the first to break the law, Filipinos remembered that most of them in fact go out of their houses without certainty that they would return, or that they would be safe. And while some members of the organization may fail at times, the bulk try to uphold the lofty ethical standards by which law enforcers like themselves are expected to live.
So yes, say Baraceras and his team from the CPSM, many of whom were at one point members of the SAF themselves, without hesitation—“the Filipino is worth dying for.”