The Rodney King exampleCebu Daily News
In asking two Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) officers about their thoughts on last Sunday’s mauling of a Papua New Guinea student, Senior Supt. Melvin Buenafe, Cebu City police chief, said PO2 Philip James Tanza and PO2 Bradford Lavandero admitted getting carried.
The two tried to calm down Benedict Peniai but drunken unruly behavior, they said, egged them to use more than the usual force.
While the admission may be used against them—the ABS-CBN footage of their manhandling of Penini were clear images of brutality —it also serves to remind the public that, however they hold Filipino police officers in contempt, they are every inch as human as the rest of us.
If there was anyone who’s justified in retaliating against Penini, whom neighbors reported would act belligerently when he gets drunk, it’s local taxi driver Giovanni Gatib. The foreign student hit him on the face with a rock and was throwing stones at others too.
The driver got to slug Penini when he was down on the ground. The two SWAT officers backed him up. Hitting someone when he’s outnumbered, unarmed and down on the grown is never a fair act.
A classic example of police brutality would be the late Rodney King Jr. whose mauling at the hands of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers in 1991 sparked riots and brought to fore racial hate issues in the American national consciousness.
Penini may not be Rodney King, who was also intoxicated after LAPD officers flagged him down for drunken driving.
The student’s lawyer even said the charges against Penini were minor and that the Penini was generally fine after taking some medication.
The street mauling in Cebu City may not have sparked riots similar to what occurred in the aftermath of the acquittal of the two police officers charged in the Rodney King case but it was sufficient to convince fellow Papua New Guinea students to consider leaving the country.
Cebu’s police already got a black eye last year when it arrested and wrongly prosecuted a Norwegian and his Cebuana fiance who were accused of being responsible for the Feb. 8, 2011 death of 6-year-old girl Ellah Joy Pique.
Using excessive force against violent offenders isn’t strange territory for Cebu police.
Remember the young robbery suspect who died after being mauled inside the Fuente police precinct by a civilian crime watch group called the “Trackers”?
The police are supposed to be trained to handle difficult suspects without taking justice into their own hands. SWAT members are expected to be more skilled than ordinary duty officers.
Discipline and sobriety should set them apart from hot-tempered trouble makers. After all, they’re the ones with the firearms.
More from this Column:
- Look forward to cooperation
- To concede is an act of grace
- Cleaning up
- For Cebu City in three years
- Plugging the holes