He seemed dead serious as he publicly berated cops and made them do the stationary push-up. Still, many thought the fury was all for show.
For one whose leadership has been defined by “gimmicky mascots and made-for-TV bluster,” Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa has a hard time convincing a public wary of rogue cops that he really means business this time around.
Senators critical of Bato scolding in front of TV cameramen and press photographers the seven Angeles City policemen accused of extortion and robbing Korean tourists can’t be blamed if they saw his actuations as cheap gimmickry or a mere PR stunt.
“Maliwanag na pang camera at pang TV… Bakit wala siyang pinag-push up o sinigawan o minura sa Crame? E doon mismo pinatay,” Sen. Francis Escudero said, referring to the murder of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo right in the premises of the PNP headquarters.
And Sen. Kiko Pangilinan had some good insights. “Sa harap ng media, hindi sila kinulong, hindi sila dinis-armahan, hindi sila pinosasan. Sa harap ng media hinayaan pang isuot ang mga uniporme upang lalo pang dungisan ang imahe ng PNP,” he lamented. “Anong klaseng kabaliwan at kapalpakan ito?”
While Bato may have intended to drive home the point that he was hell bent on doing all he can to put an end to the seeming rampage of scalawags in the police force that has been described by President Duterte as “corrupt to the core,” the spectacle in Angeles, Pampanga last Wednesday also sent a wrong message.
Though the policemen were already facing criminal charges, making them do the stationary pushup gave many netizens the impression that the alleged crimes only merited such light punishment, apart from the tongue-lashing and the invectives hurled by an infuriated Bato.
It’s a pity that the nation’s top cop now seems to have an image that cannot even command the respect due his position. Neither is he feared by his men, gauging by what has been happening to the PNP since he took over.
That Jee’s killing can happen right inside Camp Crame, just a short distance from Bato’s office and residence, speaks volumes not only on the level of impunity of rogue cops but also on whatever respect or fear they have of the PNP chief.
Where has Bato gone wrong? He puts on a serious look in his face, sometimes raising a closed fist in front of the TV camera, yet many can’t go beyond the clown-like demeanor he usually projects. He has warned erring cops to shape up, even challenging them to a fistfight or mixed martial arts duel, yet to no avail, it seems.
“General Bato has a natural flair for the dramatic; he can reinvent himself as a comedian, and earn more than he can ever hope to make legitimately even as a four-star cop,” wrote my friend, Philippine Star’s Amy Pamintuan.
Even columnist Ramon Tulfo called Bato “the most irresponsible PNP chief” last Christmas when the top cop spoke too soon and “made a fool of himself” when he announced huge cash gifts for officials that didn’t materialize. Did his subordinates start losing respect for him then, especially when the rank and file were not part of those getting cash gifts he proudly announced?
Clearly, Bato has to be respected and feared if the PNP is to be successful in going about a thorough transformation that the public has been longing for so long. And he’ll need to use more brains instead of mere brawn to get desired results. But knowing his academic background at the PMA, many feel he has the brains. (To be continued)