PHILIPPINES: Policemen squabble in open court over custody of a detainee for bounty — Asian Human Rights Commission

To argue that some Filipino policemen are corrupt and extorting money on pretext of enforcing their duties and obligations is something that no rational person could disagree with. This is an established fact and even policemen themselves know of how their colleagues make money and obtain perks while on duty. This however, is perpetual and there is nothing new in this. Unfortunately it hardly sinks into the minds of the people that this is something that they should react to strongly.

But an incident involving three police units that squabbled in open court over the custody of a detainee in exchange of bounty and credit for accomplishment, stood out as exceptional. It further illustrates how the doctrine of “professionalism, discipline and leadership” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has degenerated over the years. Now perhaps even their own propaganda mascot, ‘Officer BOH (Badge of Honor)’, will have to struggle harder to handle the cover-ups. Officer BOH has only recently been introduced by the PNP to “regain the trust and confidence of the community”.

The three police units, the 103rd Provincial Mobile Group (PPMG), headed by Superintendent Ricardo B. Dayag, Jr.; the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Police Regional Office (PRO), headed by Chief Supt. Eugene Martin; and the director of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), were arguing with each other as to who should take custody of Edgardo Molina, a rebel with a Peso 1 million (USD 21, 100) bounty on his head.

Molina earlier surrendered to the PPMG who promised they would help him secure immunity by applying for amnesty. However, the police broke their promise and had him detained and prosecuted on the same charges they had earlier agreed he could obtain immunity from. In this case the police deceived him into believing that he could obtain immunity by making deliberate and false promises that they could help him secure amnesty.

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bangued, Abra province, was reading Molina the charges of rebellion, murder and multiple frustrated murders filed against him when policemen from the SAF and the CAR appeared in court. They both asked the court hearing the case to release Molina from the 103rd PPMG, where he is presently held in custody to them, but the court rejected and ruled that it is the PPMG who should “supervise and take custody of him”.

Molina’s lawyer, Amilcar Begornia, had to seek the intervention from the Supreme Court (SC) after the incident to have his client’s case be transferred from Abra province to Ilocos Sur province. Begornia argued that “interest groups claiming the supposed bounty for his (Molina) arrest might trigger conflict between contesting parties that might endanger his life and family”.

In the Philippines, government officials and employees, which include policemen, are excluded as qualified recipients for bounty. However, for some reason the policemen are able to benefit or get perks from it. There, it is an ‘open secret’, as described by a local human rights organisation, that policemen do get money from it, one way of the other. Thus, whenever there is a government’s announcement to allocate funds for the PNP’s Reward System, like this year’s Pesos 25 million (USD 527,504) fund that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved in June to help solve the murder of journalists, activists and other election-related violence, there would always be pessimism and doubt as to who could get them.

This is how the police have themselves deliberately and with complicity abused their fundamental duties: to enforce law and order. They have turned themselves into agents of the state, no longer motivated to exercise their power to arrest, detain and prosecute persons who have violated the law, but instead those who have huge amounts of bounty on their heads. Such criminals are seen as commodities and a source of money that they could benefit from.

This type of corruption and money making by the police while on duty is also endemic at street level.

To illustrate the severity and the level of acceptance by the public drivers are presumed to have understood that once they are caught in a traffic accident, they should have the common sense to pay something to a traffic police officer to avoid having his driver’s license confiscated. The cost of the bribe depends on your bargaining skills of the driver. In this case, it could go as high as Peso 300 to 600 (USD 6 to 12).

Unless these policemen are held to account, there cannot be any improvement to the country’s policing system anytime soon. The rogue, corrupt and unprofessional policemen who are turning their police duties into a business to make money from will remain a visible stain on the police establishment.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-200-2009
Countries : Philippines,