With the revelation of high-ranking police officers involved in illegal activities such as kidnapping and the President, himself admitting that he may take “drastic measures” to tackle the drug problem one cannot help but ask if the Philippine National Police still have control over the many problems ailing the country.
A corruption-ridden, ineffective police force usually reflects on the performance of its leadership. In the Philippines, there perhaps is no police officer more recognizable than Duterte’s police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
Bato is known for his charismatic persona, constantly documented with a smile on his face and an uncanny resemblance to a popular detergent mascot. He also made headlines after he openly wept during an investigation with the Philippine Senate on police officers protecting druglords.
Yet, in a scathing op-ed article by Ramon Tulfo the popular Police Chief was called a “clown” and cited as being “ineffectual” in straightening out his subordinates. Tulfo says of dela Rosa: “he is all bluster but lacking in action”, criticizing Bato as being focused on image rather than his immediate responsibilities.
The criticism may sound harsh, but one has to wonder if the veteran journalist has a point. Upon being elected as chief executive of the state, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to solve drug-related crimes in the country “in 3-6 months”.
That timeframe was further extended to another 6 months, but with recent news reports revealing the true extent of the narcotics problem in the country – where even local government officials and police officers are involved – even with an extension the problem does not look to be solved anytime soon.
It would be grossly unfair to pin all the blame on Bato, given that the drug trade has been long documented in Philippine politics and it is a known fact that several policemen and elected officials are involved in it.
However, Tulfo does make a good point in stating that more can be done to tackle the problem and if the Duterte administration is giving it the priority it warrants (given how vocal the President is regarding drugs) then there should have been massive headways made into remedying the situation.
The journalist also makes a good point in stating that Bato has been visible in social events: recently, the Police Chief sang a number with a local rock band during a music festival. He also runs a professional shooting tournament named after him.
Such endeavors seem pointless given the rhetoric we hear from the President that the illegal drugs problem is getting worse. Maybe exposing corrupt cops protecting narcotics dealers or local government officials receiving pay-offs from druglords better deserve his attention?
These observations is what led Tulfo to his conclusion that the police officers under Bato do not treat him seriously, given that he himself does not treat himself seriously. In responding to Tulfo calling him a “clown”, the PNP chief embraced such monicker because “clowns make people laugh”.
The problem is police officers are not supposed to be laughed at, instead they should be looked up to with respect by civilians and instill fear among criminals. If Bato is okay being laughed at he cannot expect to gain an upper hand against the druglords and corrupt cops who mean serious business.
Also, Bato need not worry about adding a comedic component to the PNP as past incidents have already established their worldwide recognition as a joke. What we need now is a feared figure who can solve the serious problems our country is facing, and if dela Rosa cannot fulfill that role then Tulfo is correct in saying he should be replaced.