WITH scores of policemen and soldiers already being killed in the government’s all-out campaign against illegal drug trafficking and abuse, I am again renewing my call to the government and the PNP leadership to equip our policemen with the basic bullet-proof vests which no doubt will save many cops’ lives.
Having covered the PNP since its birth in 1991, I have been privy to many stories about policemen being shot in the chest by defiant drug traffickers and dying on the spot or due to loss of blood since they don’t have any protective suits. Minus a bullet-proof vest, all these brave cops have is pure guts and determination to arrest criminals, to the point of sacrificing their lives or being maimed.
The latest of these hero officers is Police Officer 1 Romeo Mandapat, a 24-year old member of the Police-Community Precinct 5 of the Caloocan City Police Station. My friend, Northern Police District director, Senior Superintendent Roberto Fajardo told me that PO1 Mandapat was shot to death by wanted drug dealer, security guard Jerson Maturan during an operation in Sampaloc Street, Barangay 178, Caloocan City at 2 a.m. last Friday.
The suspect who was armed with a caliber .45 pistol was also killed in the shootout. Two other NPD operatives were also wounded in the simultaneous anti-drug operations launched by the NPD on Friday which resulted in the killing of 12 suspects and the seizure of a sizeable amount of drugs and weapons.
Gen. Dela Rosa was right when he said that now is the high time for the force to purchase basic equipment for the police, not modern gadgets like tasers and stun guns usually associated with police forces from the United States and other modern countries. It’s now time for all policemen patrolling our streets to wear standard bullet-proof vests to protect them from the enemies.
Apart from being properly trained on how to hit the right target without endangering the lives of innocent civilians, all our police officers should wear bullet-proof vests each time they patrol the streets and conduct anti-crime raids which oftentimes end up in deadly firefights. I will tell you my experience when I was in the United States many years ago.
During my stay in the windy city, I happened to know a Fil-American member of the Chicago Police Department who brought me to their station and introduced me to his superiors and colleagues. During our talk, I noticed that almost all of them were barrel-chested—Americans and American-Asians alike. I later learned that all of them are wearing bullet-proof vests under their uniforms.
I was told that it’s part of their daily uniform and no officer would be allowed to pound his beat without a bullet-proof vest. If only this could also happen in our dear country, I think more honest and sincere policemen would still be alive today to talk with their wives, kids, parents and siblings and other friends and colleagues, get to arrest more criminals, live a long life and enjoy their pension when they retire.
At present, only members of the elite Special Action Force, the Special Weapons and Tactics and other special units have bullet-proof vests which I think also has an expiration date and should be replaced from time to time. You can’t see an ordinary cop wearing a bullet-proof vest while patrolling the streets of Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon region or other places in Visayas and Mindanao, I will tell you. Wanna bet?
I was on my way home Friday evening when I heard over the radio the wailing of what I think is the wife and sister of the brave PO1 Mandapat. Their cries deeply touched my heart specially the part when Mandapat’s wife said she will join the police force to continue what her dear husband has started: help win the war against drugs and crime. My deepest sympathies to the Mandapat family. God bless his good soul.
As I have been saying, let’s not forget that the war versus drugs launched by President Duterte and PNP chief, General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa has not only claimed the lives of more than 1,000 armed suspects in gunfights with the police. It has also resulted in the killing of over a dozen policemen and soldiers who are going after armed and defiant drug traffickers in the country.
Gen. de la Rosa said that since last July 1, seven policemen and three soldiers have been killed while 26 others were injured as a result of the ongoing massive crackdown against illegal drug trafficking and abuse. Of the wounded, 18 are policemen while eight are members of the Armed Forces. Add to the figure PO1 Mandapat and the two other wounded NPD operatives.