DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 31 January) — Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday called for an immediate stop to the practice of reassigning erring policemen to Mindanao.
In a press statement, Pimentel said Mindanao is “deserving of honest and disciplined lawmen like the rest of the country.”
Two weeks earlier, Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also called for an end to the practice, stressing the region is “not a dumping ground for erring and corrupt police officers involved in illegal drugs.”
In his midnight press conference in Malacanang on January 29-30, President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said he would have these police scalawags sent to the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Lanao del Sur.
“I would like to establish control sa Basilan pati sa Jolo (Sulu). Diyan sa Lanao there’s a fight going on. Doon muna sila mag-duty. Basta ‘yung may mga kaso lahat. (Let them go on duty there. All those who have cases).
In the latter part of his press conference, he repeated his need to “have a strong presence in Basilan and in Jolo.”
“Sila ‘yung paunahin ko doon. Eh kung marunong itong manakot ng mga magnakaw eh ‘di doon sila” (I will let them go there. If they know how to scare thieves, let them be there), Duterte said, adding even those who are about to retire will be sent there and to places like Bongao (Tawi-tawi). “They will have their sightseeing days before they go,” the President said.
“Mindanao deserves nothing less”
But Pimentel said the Philippine National Police (PNP) should file administrative cases against these erring personnel “so that they could be expelled from the PNP” or be sent “back to the Police Academy for re-education and re-orientation of values.”
He said he was expressing the “dismay and apprehension” of law-abiding citizens in Mindanao.
“Mindanao should be treated by the PNP with the same respect that all Filipinos deserve regardless of their faith, their culture, and their economic status,” Pimentel said, adding the PNP must give Mindanao “the best men in uniform.’
“Mindanao deserves nothing less,” the Senate President added.
Pimentel urged PNP Director-General Ronald de la Rosa to stop the practice of sending erring cops to Mindanao as part of his reforms in cleansing the 160,000-strong PNP amid complaints of police abuses in the government’s war against illegal drugs.
Dela Rosa, like Duterte and Pimentel, are from Mindanao.
Pimentel said erring cops should “not be recycled and sent to far-away postings as punishment” because it will “merely transfer the problem, not put a stop to it.”
“We need the best.. not the worst”
Hataman said the ARMM is confronted with poverty, hunger, and the rise of terror groups “and we need the best of our country’s police on our side – not the worst.”
He said erring law enforcers must be held accountable and penalized.
Hataman explained that sending these policemen to the ARMM “is not a disciplinary action; rather it is a move that portrays our region as undeserving of dignified and dedicated public service.”
Asked during the midnight press conference if sending police scalawags to Mindanao would solve the problem of corruption in the PNP, Duterte replied he wants a “strong presence in Basilan and in Jolo” and that those who do not want to be assigned there should get out of the police.
“Ayaw mong magpa-assign doon? Umalis ka sa police,” Duterte said.
As early as his first week in office, Dela Rosa had already warned erring cops that they would be transfered to Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi, a move criticized by fellow Mindanawons.
Bias and prejudice
“It reflects bias and prejudice,” Fatmawati Salapuddin, Commissioner representing Tausugs at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) told MindaNews.
“Dela Rosa comes from Mindanao, a Mindanao settler who still carries biases and prejudice against Muslims and yet we shared MSU (Mindanao State University) with him.”
Dela Rosa spent a few semesters at the MSU main campus in Marawi City before he entered the Philippine Military Academy.
Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., former President of the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, said, he hopes Duterte, the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the country, “will put an end to this practice.”
“This is the usual practice and woe to poor provinces that deserve better…. The scoundrels and scalawags ought to be dismissed and NOT assigned to Sulu or Basilan or Tawi Tawi! These places deserve decent and good policemen snd women,” Mercado said.
In a press briefing on July 4, dela Rosa said he would send scalawags “to Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi to fight the Abu Sayyaf.”
Sharifa Pearlsia Ali-Dans, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Interior and Local Government in the ARMM, who hails from Sulu, said her province is “not a garbage can meant only for undesirables. What we need are officers with the zeal and dedication to restore public order, where everyone is safe and secure. This is the clamor of the people,” Dans said in July. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)