July 14, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on July 22, 2012.)

Once upon a time, policemen were referred to as Manila’s Finest or Baguio’s Finest, and were respected rather than feared.
This was when a tough hombre named Arsenio Lacson was mayor of Manila and Francisco Paraan was chief of police of Baguio’s elite force.
It was a time when a traffic or a beat policeman didn’t badger Chinese restaurant owners for free lunch plus more, but was grateful, if invited by anyone appreciative of good police work for a cup of coffee – no more, no less.
No free marketing, believe it or not.

It was also a time when policemen went after teen gangs harassing students on their way home, and didn’t connive with criminal elements as protectors or masterminds.
Policemen were proud to be policemen, serving and protecting the public in actual life, not through billboards, or some other fancy advertising.

There was no Philippine National Police then, and the police were under the office of the city or municipal mayor.
But because some local executives were using the police as their own private army, the PNP came into being, except that it became an even bigger private army (depending on who was PNP boss), an army that provided service and protection to the flourishing numbers game, and in some instances, even engaging in illicit activities themselves.

No, we are not condemning our policemen, but the system itself. Why do policemen taken into the force suddenly develop big tummies that turn them into ogres? Let me be quick to say, however, that isip polis is not necessarily the same as isip tulisan.
But how can a policeman afford a Mitsubishi Adventure with darkened back plates and a PNP plate in front, and defy a motorcycle sweeper who is telling him to pull aside to give way to a presidential convoy, and yet even had the gall to identify himself as a policeman, as if he were exempt.
“Pulis ako!” is not meant to identify one’s self as an officer of the law, but to intimidate. It is the title, stupid, that has power and meaning not the uniform, which is just props.

Bad propaganda is what is undermining the police force, demoralizing our men in uniform, gripes the PNP hierarchy. I agree, but what brought about the so-called “bad propaganda” in the first place?
I remember how embarrassed the Baguio Police force was when one of their own was caught stealing shoes while on night duty. The filching policeman offered no excuses, and did not run to higher authority to contest his dismissal from the service.
As per reports, he even apologized not only to the store owner, but likewise to his fellow officers, for the stain that he caused in the then blue uniform of Baguio’s Finest.

According to rumormongers, admission into the service is simply a matter of pull if not grease or both, in which case you pass the written and oral exams and the psychological tests with flying colors.
Oh, and if you ever went to high school, guess where your school bully ended up. In the police force, where else?
What are we to do? Nothing, except weep and beg the heavens to enlighten the unenlightened – not just the policemen but their superiors, so they learn that the way to lead is by example. Start by jailing the gambling and other lords, but first shut down all the casinos.

Is there anything in common between the Chinese and our tribal friends from the North?
In one island of the Spratlys, the Chinese put up shanties which they said will serve as shelter for their fishermen. Okay fine, but in the same way a “wash your car” carved out of the side of a hill metamorphoses into a store and later on a residential house, so too have the Chinese shanties become modern buildings, complete with, I understand, radar and other high tech equipment.
I wonder if they also share the same love for the crisp touch of paper colored green, or at least violet.

I have nothing to say about autonomy except that I see no benefits for my Ibaloy kin. They have already made Baguio an adjunct of another province, and now they want the whole hog.
Will any of my Ibaloy brethren get to be autonomy leader? If he can’t even dislodge the Northern intruders from his own turf, I would surmise that autonomy would do him more harm than good, like making him obsolete.
As I see it, it will be a battle for power between the Ifugaos and the Bontocs for superiority and power, and the Ibaloys will once again be left holding an empty sack of promises and more promises.
Ansi ito no mi!