The top cop’s apology spared many from wondering if he really can look Senate President Koko Pimentel straight in the eye and tell him he’s an ingrate.
Yet some feel that because the nation’s third most powerful man was among those who criticized the peace and order situation, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa had to soften up.
Would he be quick to apologize had it been merely lesser mortals reacting to his statement that critics are ungrateful? Many don’t think so. But since it was the Senate president who also got irked, Bato had to apologize, lest he might lose face if he’d be asked to repeat what he said should he be face to face with Pimentel.
At the rate Bato antagonizes not only administration critics but also the closest allies of President Duterte, it’s as if arrogance and incompetence are outpacing each other to fan the flames of discontent over his leadership and PNP performance.
Previously, it was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who got irked at Bato over the killing of a Korean businessman inside Camp Crame. He asked Bato to resign last January to save Duterte “from further embarrassment and restore respect” to the office of the PNP chief.
On Oct. 5, it was Koko’s turn to be irked at Bato who, two days earlier, had said: "Prangka lang ako. You can criticize us to high heavens but I can tell you straight sa inyong mga mata, 'yung mga critic, sabihan ko kayo, ingrato kayo. Alam ko nakikinabang din kayo sa peace and order na idinulot ng war on drugs.”
Bato’s remarks swiftly drew adverse reactions from two opposition congressmen. “Walang utang na loob ang taumbayan sa kanya, trabaho niya yan,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said. “Kung tingin ni Gen. dela Rosa pagiging ingrato ang paghahabol sa katarungan, nasa ibang planeta yung ganyang pananaw,” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin chided.
Their reactions though didn’t merit response from Bato. But that changed when Pimentel denounced the killing of Oriental Mindoro councilor Melchor Arago and his 15-year-old son by unidentified gunmen last week.
“Where is the peace and order that dela Rosa says the people are ungrateful for? Criminals are being emboldened by what they see as the incompetence of the PNP in catching them,” Pimentel said. The Filipino people deserve a modern, professional, and capable police force. Right now, the PNP is none of the above.”
Shortly after Pimentel’s tirade, Bato put on a semblance of an apology. “Pasensya na sa tinamaan na tinawag kong ingrato. Spur of the moment lang yun,” he explained, saying he did not want to engage in a word war with the Senate president.
Pimentel is right to criticize the PNP. And Bato must understand that PNP critics are not necessarily critics of the war on drugs. In fact, everyone seems to agree that war has to be waged against illegal drugs. But the killings are what many are against. The SWS said 90 percent of Filipinos want drug suspects caught alive.
“Every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on,” Robert Kennedy once said. If 90 percent of the population wants law enforcers to stop the killings, they have all the right to insist. After all, sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.
Thus, any and all authority that Bato has as PNP chief emanates from the people to whom he should be truly grateful to, and not the other way around. Besides, it was the people’s tax money that made it possible for him to study at the PMA and become a top cop. He owes it to the Filipino people to fulfill his essence for being: To serve and protect. Failure to do so will make him an “ingrato” in the eyes of Filipinos fed up with mediocrity.