The Effectiveness of the Law Lies in Its Execution

REACTION ON TED FAILON'S CASE

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I am a criminologist by profession and currently working as a criminology instructor. I have always been and will be sympathetic to police force for obvious reasons. But this case of Failon's is outrageous and no amount of sympathy and reason in my mind that would justify the actions involving QCPD.

As a criminology instructor, subjects about crimes and police occupy my daily thinking, and so with other criminologists who opted for teaching. In the classroom, we teach among others:
 
  1. strategies on winning public support,
  2. laws guiding police in the fight against crime, and
  3. scientific techniques aiding the police
It is most unfortunate that not one of these subjects did the QCPD observe. Thus, I cannot see the reason why CSupt Roberto Rosales, the National Capital Region Director, said that the police acted by the book. Or is it just that we're using different books - his is the latest one and mine is obsolete? In my humble research in both printed and electronic sources, I believe there have not been significant changes in literature dealing with police matters. It is probably good at this point to discuss each of the three items above to prove my point.

STRATEGIES ON WINNING PUBLIC SUPPORT. In our subject Police Ethics and Community Relations, we indoctrinated students that POLICE SERVICE is a PUBLIC SERVICE and that policemen are PUBLIC SERVANTS and PROTECTORS OF THE PEOPLE. The first sentence of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics has much to say on this: "As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice." Winning public support to us is following the ideals of this code. QCPD’s actions are the exact contradictions. Yet, according to CSupt Rosales they followed by the book.

GUIDING LAWS. We teach students that under our law, an arrest without warrant can only be made in any of the following circumstances:

  1. Arrest and detention of a person suffering violent insanity or any other ailment requiring the compulsory confinement of the patient in a hospital. (Art. 124, Revised Penal Code)
  2. When, in his presence, the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense;
  3. When an offense has just been committed and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and
  4. When the person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from a penal establishment or place where he is serving final judgment or is temporarily confined while his case is pending, or has escaped while being transferred from one confinement to another. (Sec. 5, Rule 113, Rules of Court)
We also emphasize that in making an arrest no violence or unnecessary force shall be used and the person arrested shall not be subject to a greater restraint than is necessary for his detention. (Sec. 2, Rule 113). We further emphasize to them the following items in Republic Act 7438, otherwise known as: “AN ACT DEFINING CERTAIN RIGHTS OF PERSON ARRESTED, DETAINED OR UNDER CUSTODIAL INVESTIGATION AS WELL AS THE DUTIES OF THE ARRESTING, DETAINING AND INVESTIGATING OFFICERS, AND PROVIDING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THEREOF:”

1.      That an arrested person should be assisted by counsel at all times; and
2.       That Miranda warning be given to the arrested person in the language known to and understood by him/her.

We have not seen these things being observed by QCPD. Yet again, they conducted investigation carefully and by the book.

SCIENTIFIC TECHNIQUES. Paraffin-Diphenylamine Test, Dermal-Nitrate Test or simply Paraffin Test is the most talked about forensic topic in Failon case. Supt. Elmo San Diego asserted that should Trinidad Etong yielded positive in the paraffin test, the case would have been closed as ‘suicide’. In our forensic chemistry subject, paraffin test is discussed lengthily with hands-on activity from the preparation of paraffin wax to actual color observation of nitrates reacting to diphenylamine reagent. But true to our calling, we inform our students that this test is not conclusive for the reason that its result is not specific to gunpowder; there are lots of nitrate sources in the environment other than gunpowder. In addition, this test had already been relegated by the FBI in the 1950s. Yet again, QCPD acted by the book.

In spite of all this, I still have faith in the PNP in general. After all, I know that a lot of my colleagues in the criminology profession are in the service. And if we lose our faith, who are we going to put our faith to?

At this point, probably it is interesting to ask why these policemen acted the way they did. Are their actions representatives of the entire police force? We cannot answer these questions with certainty. We can only surmise. In my humble opinion, these police officers and a good majority of policemen in the country act based on their orientation. And when I say orientation, I am referring to their perceptions of the nature of their jobs and their trainings they underwent. It is well to remember that PNP is a rebaptized name of the now defunct PC-INP. Philippine Constabulary (PC) was a component of the military. Thus, PC servicemen who were absorbed in the PNP have militaristic orientation. The Integrated National Police (INP), while not a military component, had close connection with the PC. Thus, the learning of militaristic orientation is by association. While the PNP Law (R.A. 6975) specifically states that PNP is civilian in nature, the trainings of recruits are still militaristic in nature. I have nothing against militaristic training. As a matter of fact, I hold that the best training, especially in discipline is the military training. The problem is that the training often goes overboard to the point that trainees are not only trained to be subservient to superior officers but also to undermine human dignity. In the process, trainees will not just take his learning in the training for his consumption but also apply it to other persons, especially suspects or accused.

It is therefore high time that the training of the PNP be tailored to fit the demands of his job. While there may still be militaristic training, it should only be given to special action force of the PNP and not on those whose nature of duty will constantly deal with the public.

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