The sad saga of the Philippine National Police (PNP) continued last week with the Mandaluyong incident in which policemen fired at a speeding van, thinking it carried fleeing gunmen when it was actually rushing a woman patient to the hospital.
Three years ago, 44 men of the PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) died in an operation to capture a wanted Malaysian terrorist leader in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The 44 were hailed as heroes who gave their lives for a great cause – to root out a foreign threat to the country’s government and democracy. The SAF 44 were among the best of the best in the PNP.
Since then, however, many PNP men have become involved in incidents that reflected on the good name of the national police organization.
The PNP was assigned by President Duterte to lead the campaign against drugs and its men went about their work with great zeal. All over the country, hundreds of people were reported killed, many of them – police said – were shot down for resisting arrest and fighting back. One victim was already in prison when a police raiding team claimed he fired at them and they shot him to death.
The death of a teenager – Kian de los Santos – in a Caloocan anti-drugs raid aroused the nation as no previous incident had. And the President decided to suspend the PNP’s anti-drug operations and assigned the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the campaign. He directed the PNP chief to clean up the organization of “scalawags” who have given it a bad name.
Last week, the Mandaluyong PNP found itself at the center of a new controversy. Policemen called to investigate a shooting incident fired at a van they thought carried fleeing gunmen. The van, it turned out, was rushing to the hospital to bring a woman shot in another incident. She and another passenger were killed by the police who fired repeatedly – and mistakenly – at the van.
As in all the previous incidents, the top PNP officialdom is carrying out an investigation of the Mandaluyong tragedy. It might be necessary to conduct a wider inquiry to determine whether this kind of police readiness and capability is found in other police units in the country. The PNP has a great name and reputation to uphold and protect. We cannot have another incident like the one in Mandaluyong.