Even with pay hike, some cops still involved in robbery-extortion
MANILA, Philippines — Even with the increase in salary of uniformed personnel last year, 42 police officers are still facing charges for robbery-extortion, data from the Philippine National Police-Counter-Intelligence Task Force (PNP-CITF) showed.
A document from the CITF obtained by INQUIRER.net on April 2 showed that robbery-extortion cases were filed against 34 police officers in 2018 and eight cops from January to April this year.
“Definitely hindi mo talaga maaalis, talagang meron at meron pa rin [na pulis na masasangkot] sa robbery-extortion or kotong,” said Police Col. Romeo Caramat Jr., commander of the CITF, the agency that runs after police scalawags.
(Definitely, you cannot rule out scalawags in the service. Some police officers will still be involved in robbery-extortion.)
From February 2017 (when the CITF was established) to December 2017, 31 police officers were also slapped with robbery-extortion charges.
In January 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a joint resolution of Congress allowing the increase in base pay of military and uniformed personnel. Raising the salary of uniformed personnel was among the President’s campaign promises as the 187,648-strong PNP is at the forefront of the crackdown against illegal drugs.
Under the resolution, a patrolman earning a base pay of P14,834 will start receiving a monthly pay of P29,668, or a 100-percent-increase in the original base pay.
The salaries of officers with the rank of Police Executive Master Sergeant up to Police General are set to increase again this year.
Though the number of police officers facing robbery-extortion charges in 2017 and 2018 is almost similar, Caramat said the data is not comparable since there were other variables that might have affected the numbers.
“It’s either pinaigting lang ng PNP or ng CITF ‘yung kampanya natin, naging aktibo, kaya halos magkadikit ‘yung number of arrested personnel,” he said.
(It’s possible that the PNP or the CITF have intensified their campaign against scalawags in the police force or they have become more active. That’s why the number of arrested personnel is almost similar.)
He also explained that the number of police officers involved in extortion cannot be solely based on records of arrests, since it is possible that his unit was not able to monitor other police officers involved in the same crime.
“You cannot compare because it’s either hindi namin namonitor [or] nagkulang kami sa intelligence, kaya hindi sila nahuhuli. Maraming gumagawa, hindi natin nahuhuli, so you cannot compare,” said Caramat.
(You cannot compare because it’s either we failed to monitor them or we lacked intelligence information to have them arrested. Many are involved in extortion activities, but we fail to catch them. So you cannot compare the data.)
Drug war abused
Even the chief of the anti-scalawag unit of the PNP admits that some police officers abuse the Duterte administration’s centerpiece campaign against illegal drugs.
“I should say na inabuso rin nila iyon. Maraming pulis na nagtake-advantage sa campaign natin sa illegal drugs (I should say they have abused it. Many policemen take advantage of the campaign against illegal drugs),” said Caramat.
For instance, he said some police officers demand cash from suspected drug pushers they have arrested in exchange for downgrading their cases to possession of illegal drugs, which is a bailable offense.
In other cases, some police officers were also arrested by their colleagues inside police offices for demanding cash from relatives of drug suspects in exchange for the release of their jailed kin, or during entrapment operations for other violations.
Lifestyle, character, training
Caramat cited three factors why police officers resort to extortion activities: their lifestyle, character, and training.
“For example ‘yung isang pulis ay mahilig sa gambling, tulad ng cockfighting. [They extort to get cash to support their vices] dahil iyon ‘yung nakasanayan nila,” he said, adding that some police officers turn to illegal activities to maintain a lavish lifestyle.
(For example, a policeman is hooked on gambling, like cockfighting. [They extort to get cash to support their vices] because they were used to that kind of lifestyle.)
While most rookie police officers are idealistic, Caramat admitted that some lawmen lose their values over time. During training, some newbies also get associated with senior cops who were already “inflicted by the system.”
“They treat their job as a policeman as pagkakaperahan, not as a vocation. Iyon ang nawawala, ‘yung pagka-idealistic. Dati they want to become a policeman to serve other people kapag bago [pa sila], but ngayon hindi iyon ang line of thinking,” he said.
(They treat their job as a policeman as a source of money, not as a vocation. They lose their idealism. At the start, they want to become a policeman to serve other people; later on, they lose that motivation.)
Fewer complaints against cops
However, in Caramat’s opinion, the number of police officers involved in extortion activities has decreased as the PNP is aggressively implementing its internal cleansing program.
Even PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde has warned that there will be “no mercy” for scalawags among his subordinates.
“Sa ngayon I am pretty sure na kumonti ‘yung involved sa robbery-extortion, kasi dati lantaran na sinasabi eh, magbigay na lang ng ganito, kumbaga garapalan, but now ingat na ingat sila [na gumawa ng mali],” Caramat said.
(Right now I am pretty sure that the number of policemen involved in robbery-extortion has decreased. In the past, they do it brazenly, but now they are more cautious about committing wrongdoing.)
He said he was basing his assessment on the fewer number of complaints lodged at the CITF against erring officers who are mostly involved in robbery-extortion.
According to Caramat, from 483 complaints against the police received by the CITF in February 2017, the unit has received only 27 complaints from the public in January 2019, 16 in February, and 19 in March.
“Kung minsan nga wala na kaming ginagawa dahil dati nga [sobrang dami]. Sometimes we don’t have work to do unlike before when there were so many cases),” Caramat said.
He added that the police officers are now afraid of committing irregularities and are wary of the CITF, which he said is “the police of the police.”
“‘Yung number of complaints, that means may trust and confidence, may tiwala na sila sa pulis. Kaya nga merong nagrereport dahil may tiwala sila sa pulis,” he said.
(The number of complaints means the public has trust and confidence in the police force. People report complaints because they trust us.) /ee
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