Editorial: Virtue signalling

Whether or not Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Guillermo Eleazar’s dressing down of Police Master Sgt. Hensie Zinampan in public was mere show, it may help to look at the context that charged the official’s frustration. It wasn’t also the first time that he did so on an erring cop—he did the same, and even worse when he berated an officer who was caught extorting money from a drug suspect when the former was yet city police chief.

Zinampan figured in a video gone viral that showed him pulling the hair and shooting point blank 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez before her young family members in Quezon City on May 31. In a video published by the PNP on social media, the infuriated Eleazar berated the young officer: “Tangina ka. Hirap na hirap tayo para ayusin itong organisasyon tapos ‘yon ang gagawin mo (Son of a bitch. We work so hard to cleanse our organization and you did that.)

Eleazar, barely a month in his six-month stint as PNP chief before he retires, has been sending the right signals even to government’s staunchest critics. He began his term with a promise to re-intensify the organization’s internal cleansing program, starting with the rather concrete order for cops to clean up their respective precincts.

Regaining public trust, he said, is his priority. No empty promises there as he agrees to a partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in opening the records of about 60 cases pertaining to alleged extrajudicial killings (EJK) in relation to the drug war. He intends to put more on the table, depending on the progress and nature of the cases its internal investigation finds. Admittedly a token percentage to the supposed volume of alleged EJK cases on file or under investigation, but the partnership bodes well as a step toward transparency and accountability, no matter how it causes some discomfort to the country’s top executive who said some records are better protected in the name of national security.

Nevertheless, it’s Eleazar’s very public demonstration of his intentions to cleanse the ranks that sends the more notable signal down the police organization. As an aside, it could have been something we’d have wished our key PNP officials in the region, province or city should have done at the first whiff of the Sawang Calero case where 11 policemen figured in a rape, extortion and kidnapping case. Another hard blow into the public trust the organization has been trying to earn, it was, and yet never a hint of fury or disgust came out in our corner of the planet. Eleazar’s public expression of anger, indeed, represents the disgust and frustration of those who have been true to their oath.

So much respect for the PNP chief for banging Zinampan against the wall in the most public of ways, if only to send the message strongly that the PNP is gravely serious in its internal cleansing mission. So much respect, too, for all the career policemen who have been performing their job to to the letter with zeal and humanity.