By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada
THE roots for the corruption that we saw in the “ninja cops” episode in Pampanga on November 29, 2013 could be found in a growing trend among policemen as entrepreneurs. It’s not something new. But over the years, we’ve seen more and more police officers engage in business activities in a desire to profit from their position and influence. For them, the salary that comes from the job is not enough. They want to earn much more.
I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. Anybody is free to pursue economic activities alongside their jobs. After all, one’s government salary is barely enough to meet living expenses. Not even with the higher base pay for police officers, being a uniformed officer is not a ticket for a comfortable life.
The problem arises when police officers see their work as opportunities to make money. This is when corruption becomes a beacon for police officers, as well as other public servants. That was how it was for the likes of P/Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV, who is now the most notorious police officer for his involvement in the “agaw-bato” scheme six years ago. We had a police intelligence officer who exploited his knowledge of a huge horde of shabu and cash for his personal gain, and most probably, with the consent and approval of his superior at the time, now PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde.
In Iloilo, there are a number of police officers who are engaged in legitimate business activities. Like trucking, for example. This is the line of business a police officer with a rank of Major is pursuing. With his rank and position, he is able to give protection to his business. It also enables him to get clients who feel secure with him as the trucker.
Hence, the biggest problem is a conflict of interest. Because his business is also heavily regulated by the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, this officer went to great lengths trying to please the powers-that-be, especially during the last elections. He prostituted the institution that is the PNP in deploying his men to harass political enemies of the Capitol in the last elections.
How else could you describe a police officer who broke the rules of engagement like conducting checkpoints in civilian clothing and in dark areas of highways in the province of Iloilo? For all intents and purposes, what they did made them armed goons. Their photographs were well-circulated in social media. They did not even deny it; they claimed it was allowed under Comelec rules.
If we want to reform the PNP, we should not allow police officers engaged in entrepreneurial activities to occupy positions that would give them clout and influence. Such conflict of interest makes them ineffective in the discharge of their duties. I would not be surprised if their time and efforts are focused on their businesses, and not on the work they are mandated to do.