MEMBERS of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force have aired a howl of protest and the so-called Gallant 44 or the SAF troopers who died in a mission to neutralize Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in 2015 must be turning in from their graves nowadays.
The reason: the activation 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, said E-Senior Police Officer 4, People’s Tonight learned yesterday.
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 on 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 on Facebook, drawing surprise and criticisms from many users.
When contacted for comment on the matter, Police Regional Office 7 director Chief Supt. 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 oath-taking of the ESAF officers and members due to negative comments he has been hearing about the group prior to their official activation.
He also 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 more than 600 negative comments as of yesterday regarding the presence of the ESAF members who look like regular PNP officers.
One Michael Jeffrey Jordan asked it the organization could be another ‘private army’ of a politician. “Why are they allowing the use of PNP badge, rank/insignia, uniform, logo, etc. and using the name of PNP-SAF?” asked Jordan.
“Mas matindi pa sa pulis kung umasta a. Pati pangalan ng grupo, ginawang mas astig kesa sa mga tunay na nasa PNP, at elite pa talaga. ’Di man lang nakaisip ng ibag itatawag sa grupo nila. Sobrang ‘kulang sa pansin’ naman ng bumuo niyan!, said one Whay Donato Villon-Gazzingan.
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 a 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 Rep. 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 on 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.
Some of the violations of the policy include unauthorized or improper wearing of uniforms, insignias and accoutrements, unauthorized haircut, dirty shoes, dirty uniform, unshaved moustaches and other similar minor infractions.
Senior PNP officials have emphasized the projection of good police image by wearing proper uniform while in performance of our duty and said that 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 pose as real police officers.