THE Philippine National Police leadership headed by Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa has ordered a stepped-up campaign against stores known for selling sub-standard PNP uniforms outside Camp Crame and other police camps nationwide.
Officials said they are also targeting stores known for selling PNP uniforms and other accoutrements even to unauthorized persons in the wake of the crackdown against heavily-armed robbers posing as ‘Police’ each time they stage their illegal activities in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
“What we have now is a campaign to stop the illegal activities of suppliers and manufacturers of sub-standard police uniforms, individual accoutrements and other paraphernalia,” said PNP spokesman, Senior Superintendent Dionardo B. Carlos.
The order came in the wake of protests aired over the presence of a group called Elite Special Action Force Police or ESAF Police in Cebu whose members are wearing uniforms bearing the official PNP seal and the E-SAF Police seal and are carrying similar ranks as that of the police with the letter E before the rank, say E-Senior Police Officer 4.
Officers and members of the group were inducted into office recently by Cebu City Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña, Cordova Mayor Teche Sitoy Cho and National Police Commission 7 assistant regional director Jose S. Concepcion. Their official seal/letterhead have the words: Republic of the Philippines/Office of the President/Philippine Center for Transnational Crime and the PNP slogan ‘We Serve and Protect’ and their business office is located at Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu City.
Netizens have questioned the presence of ESAF in Cebu after its members posted their pictures and identification cards in Facebook. One E-SAF member was shown in Facebook wearing what looked like a bullet-proof vest and with a holstered gun. He was wearing a shirt with the ‘PULIS’ markings and an ESAF badge hanging by his neck.
One member who goes by the name E/SPO4 Jan Ebrell Zafra even posted his ESAF identification card in Facebook drawing surprise and criticisms from many users.
Police Regional Office 7 director, Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño, said he has ordered a background investigation into the origin of the ESAF. The member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1984 who used to be a deputy director of the PNP-SAF said he turned down an invitation to grace the oathtaking of the ESAF officers and members due to negative comments he has been hearing about the group prior to their official activation.
He said that he also did not sign a request for him to endorse the group before the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Although they are giving information about illegal drugs and other police concerns, I have ordered an investigation into why those ESAF members are wearing PNP badges and patches as if they were real police officers,” Taliño said. Facebook has been swamped with thousands of negative comments regarding the presence of the ESAF members who look like regular PNP officers.
A PNP memorandum bars the illegal use of PNP uniforms, insignias and other accoutrements’ in the country in accordance with Executive Order No. 297. The PNP says that the use of PNP uniforms, insignias and other accoutrements by a person who is not uniformed PNP personnel is strictly prohibited.
It says that violation of the rule shall, after due notice and hearing, be penalized by public censure which shall be published at least once in a newspaper of general circulation without prejudice to the filing of administrative, civil and/or criminal actions.
The PNP leadership has consistently aired its support on a House bill regarding the prohibition on the use and production of PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines uniforms. House Bill 368 authored by Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul del Mar sought to amend Republic Act 493 that prohibits the use and production of PNP and AFP uniforms.
At present, the PNP strictly adheres to the proper wearing of police uniforms by the PNP personnel through its Letter of Instruction “Tamang Bihis” (proper attire), a directive prescribing authorized PNP uniform with insignia and accoutrements and requiring PNP personnel the proper wearing of all PNP uniforms.
Senior PNP officials have emphasized the projection of good police image by wearing proper uniform while in performance of duty and said the house bill is very significant to the PNP as it will pave the way to enforce penalties that will discourage civilians from wearing police uniforms and posing as real police officers.
The PNP leadership said charges for usurpation of authority and unlawful use of insignias can be filed against non-PNP personnel who will be found wearing police uniforms. Policemen found wearing improper uniforms can be administratively charged too.
The PNP Task Force Bantay Bihis is headed by the Director for Police-Community Relations, the main unit spearheading the campaign aimed at standardizing the police uniform.
The program also aims to prevent the proliferation of civilians posing as cops by wearing PNP uniforms, t-shirts and jackets which can be easily bought from stores unaccredited to sell police materials, Carlos said.