Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Full Alert:” Another Illustration of Mediocrity in the PNP

A few moments ago, (April 16, 2011, 6:45PM), I heard over DZMM RD NCRPO, PDirector Nick Bartolome being interviewed by Gus Abelgas in “SOCO sa DZMM.” The topic was about the “OPLAN Semana Santa” preparations of NCRPO. Dir Bartolome’s interview had been going well, until the portion where he said that NCRPO had already declared “Full Alert.” Nothing wrong with that actually, except that his next statement was an apology to the families of NCRPO policemen if their loved ones (the NCRPO cops) are not home during the full alert. According to him, during full alert, “walang uwian ang pulis.” Now, this is where I want to focus this article.

As the touted next Chief, PNP, I had high hopes on Dir Bartolome. Though I do not know him personally and he definitely does not know me from Adam, I have heard nothing but good things about him—until this statement.

His interpretation of the “Full Alert” as a period of “walang uwian” for policemen betrays his lack of correct appreciation of present-day police work situation. I want to write about this misappreciation of police work by the PNP top brass because it is not only PDir Bartolome who thinks this way. I notice that almost all of my previous bosses think this way too. And what is this “line of thinking” and what is its significance anyway?

This line of thinking shows that almost 20 years after the PNP was established with a drastically different paradigm from its predecessor which is the Philippine Constabulary/Integrated National Police, many in the current top brass of the PNP still think like the PC ways, especially those who were former PC officers like PDir Bartolome. This is nothing to be surprised of actually as almost all of the top generals now are products of the military academy who chose PC as their branch of service.

The “Full Alert” in the PNP today is equated to the “Red Alert” during the PC days and the “Heightened Alert” to the “Blue Alert.” During “Red Alert,” all PC personnel are required to be in the barracks, waiting for deployment and in “Blue Alert,” half of the strength is required. They are accounted for by their “First Sergeants” and ensured that they are all intact and ready for jump off.

At this point, I want to emphasize the word “barracks.” Almost all PC camps before were simply called “barracks” so much so that when you return to barracks after a night out in town, simply telling the tricycle driver “barracks” is sure to get you to the right destination. You never tell the driver that you want to go to the police station, otherwise, you will be ferried to the “municipio” where the INP people hold office. This illustrates the highly different job environments of the then PC as compared to the PNP today. Most of the time, the more significant jobs of the PC were governed by specific orders that when it is normal alert, most, if not all of them were out there in town with no specific mission because routine peace and order like foot patrol, traffic control, fire incident response, and the like were given to the INP. The PNP today is more like the INP rather than the PC.

The INP were the real policemen during those days. The “Great Divide” can be seen right at the ranks. The PC officers were simply referred to as 2nd Lt, 1st Lt, Captain, Major, etc. while the INP Officers were referred to as P/Lt, P/Capt, P/Major, etc. This “P” in their ranks meant “police” but instead of being a badge of honor, it is a major liability as rarely can you see a major PC/INP unit headed by an officer with a "P" in his rank. And even more rarely can you see a PC officer in a unit headed by an INP officer. The INP was the police and the PC was, well, the PC.

The PC was really a military organization. “Red Alerts” were declared during critical times like when there are reported threats to the camp, big holidays like Christmas, when there is a firefight going on between government units and the enemies of the state, and the like. “Red Alerts” may extend from a few days to weeks and during all this time, the PC people are in the barracks.  And the barracks are living quarters where personnel can eat, sleep, and do all their personal necessities quite comfortably.  And most importantly, it is perfectly legal to sleep in the barracks.

The specific PC “missions” were not much different from the “missions” of other land-based units of the AFP. These “missions” were usually tactical level operations with specific targets for destruction or as we officially term it until now, “neutralization.” “Arrest” is actually a word in the lowest recesses of the PC dictionary, classified under the section “Foreign Words and Phrases.” PC missions were combat patrols that last for days or weeks and bring the PC guys to remote areas. After the “mission,” they return to barracks and wait for another “mission.” During these “missions,” the PC naturally follow “ranger tactics” where they eat, sleep, and poop in their “harbor area” following strict “security procedures” lest they get eaten alive by the enemy. This is so because during these missions, they are out there in the field, literally. Thus, for PC people, it is understandable that "walang uwian pag red alert."

Now, is this the same with the present PNP? Are the job environments of the PNP and the PC the same? Is it correct to equate “Red Alert” with the “Full Alert?” Most importantly, is PDir Bartolome correct when he said that “Full Alert” is “walang uwian?”

Let us examine the present job environment of the PNP. Especially the NCRPO which Dir Bartolome heads, PNP personnel are based in a police station usually located in a very busy urban location. Many police stations are situated in highly built-up areas and most of the time, space is limited that the only private space for policemen is a locker room where they can change into their uniforms. A police station with a barracks is more of an exception rather than the rule. And just rightly so. A police station does not need a barracks. Policemen should be walking in the streets, pounding their beats during their duty hours and not while away their time and loiter in the barracks!

This is the biggest difference between the PC and the PNP that current generals who were former PCs seemingly forget. When a PC patrol gets tired, they can rest and sleep in their temporary harbor area in the field. As such, they can last in their “mission” for long periods and not go back to their barracks for weeks. But what about present day policemen? Can they sleep during their duty hours? Can they occupy a “harbor area” and rest just like what the PC people did? Woe to him who gets caught by a media camera sleeping inside a patrol car, a precinct, or basically anywhere while he is in uniform! In this environment then, how long can a policeman effectively last in his job like patrol or investigation before he needs to rest and sleep?

Ideally, just like any other worker, 8 hours is just about right, though 12-hour shifts are not uncommon in the PNP. Now, after their duty, where do the generals expect their policemen to go? Back to the station? Especially during “Full Alerts” like “OPLAN Semana Santa,” where do Dir Bartolome expects the policeman to go after their shift? “Walang uwian?” Kid me!

(This is another illustration of the non-thinking nature of the PNP where even the supposedly brilliant officers just continue the systems and process that they “found in station,” never mind if the system is stupid or outdated or already passé. I am sure that PDir Bartolome knows that the concept of equating “Full Alert” to “Red Alert” is wrong but he just does not dare to change it lest he shows that he knows how to think and jeopardize his chances of being the next Chief, PNP. In the PNP right now (and the government in general ha), I think it is “Bawal ang nag-iisip. Baka mas gumaling pa kayo sa Presidente!” Hahahaha!)

PS.

This type of PNP operations like the “OPLAN Semana Santa” where Dir Bartolome said “We deployed more than 5,000 policemen for this purpose.” is nothing but sound bites. But I will reserve that for another “Mediocrity” article.

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