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FIRING LINE: Culture of Impunity

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Last Sunday, while most of us were enjoying the spoils of Christmas, double-murder suspect policeman Jonel Nuezca was languishing in jail and his family hiding away somewhere till who-knows-when. Imagine seeing through their eyes, for a second: the future looks grim.

Not too far away from his cell, his victims Sonya Gregorio and her son Frank Anthony were locked up, too – in a box, buried in the ground, and never for their families to be seen again. Even for a second, I wish not to see through their eyes.

The government has done its share of reflecting, and rightfully so. In a time plagued by COVID-19 deaths, joblessness, disasters, and uncertainty, nothing would have shocked us anymore. But this crime did. With eyes wide open in anticipation of Christmas, we bore witness to naked evil. And this one, in particular, wore a uniform.

No, I’m not going near the chorus of condemning the entire Philippine National Police (PNP) for the crime of one. But neither is this the time to sing “united we stand, divided we fall”.

I support Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s proposal to institute regular neuropsychiatric tests and anger management sessions for PNP personnel. Having been a PNP chief, he’s no stranger to the psychological effect of carrying a gun to work every day, confronting peace and order issues, but not getting to fire it.

So, apart from regularly checking whether or not one who carries a badge is still fit for sporting a sidearm, I suggest shooting proficiency tests — not only for marksmanship — be made regular, too, as a form of releasing stress.

I understand if the good senator might be hurt or incensed by the voices of the opposition mouthing a slew of accusations against the PNP like “police brutality” or “culture of impunity”. The truth is, there are bad cops as there are tomatoes that rot in the fridge, and I agree that one does not fix it by throwing away the ref.

I’d love to believe Nuezca as “Exhibit X” is an “isolated case” and that Sen. Dela Rosa as “Exhibit A” is the rest of the cops in the PNP. But somewhere in between, there’s “Exhibit Q” like this police captain miles away in Catanduanes who thought Nuezca’s vilest fit of rage should “remind people to respect policemen”.

Yes, the PNP organization sacked Capt. Ariel Buraga from his post in the town remarkably named Bato, Mr. Senator. But it makes me wonder whether it was because of “what he said” on social media or “what he believed” in his heart because he’s taking that with him wherever he goes, along with his badge and gun and bullets we citizens paid for. Is he an isolated case, too?

“No culture of impunity in the PNP,” says Sen. Bato. I do want to believe so. Neighbors of every cop in this country deserve that as a truth, not as rhetoric.

Months before Nuezca fired his gun, Human Rights Commissioner Karen Dumpit warned that rhetoric from leaders, especially the highest authority, incited violence and “may have had the effect of encouraging, backing or even ordering human rights violations, with impunity”.

Dumpit said mere “utterances” could be construed as an order. The Commission on Human Rights’ message was simple: “Changing the language being used by leaders toward the PNP could be the easiest thing to do in implementing changes.”

Can’t we start there?

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at

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