Policing the police: The PNP's Administrative Disciplinary Procedures

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Since its activation last week, the Counter Intelligence Task Force (CITF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has received more than 1,200 text complaints against erring policemen.

The CITF is PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa's response to their anti-crime efforts following recent high-profile cases involving allegedly corrupt and abusive members of the PNP.

Read: PNP forms counter intelligence task force vs. rogue cops

At a Malacañang briefing following a command conference with the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte said he estimates that up to 40% of the PNP's 150,000 personnel use their authority to commit crime.

Read: Duterte seeks PNP revamp to get rid of corrupt cops

Dela Rosa stressed PNP personnel will be given due process.

"Yung mga minor (cases), pinapasa ng CITF dun sa concerned units sa area nila na pwedeng aksyunan," he said. "Pero yung mga malalaki, dine-develop nila ngayon, vina-validate, then appropriate counter-actions can be done on those policemen."   

[Translation: Minor cases are passed by the CITF to concerned units within their area so these can be acted upon. But for the more serious cases, these are validated, then appropriate counter-actions can be done on those policemen.]

But the PNP has already an established rules of procedure for administrative disciplinary actions against erring policemen based on Memorandum Circular 2016-002, which is pursuant to Republic Act 8551 or the "Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998."

Disciplinary-Authorities.jpg  

Within the PNP, the Internal Affairs Service or IAS — dubbed "the police of the police" — receives evidence and investigates cases mostly concerning breaches of internal discipline.

The IAS then recommends penalties to disciplinary authorities — from the PNP Chief to the regional and police director and the station/chief of police — depending on the gravity of crimes committed.

The IAS can also investigate motu propio or on its own in certain cases, such as when death, serious injury or any violation of human rights occurs during a police operation or where evidence was compromised or tampered with.

Outside the PNP, the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), the People's Law Enforcement Board and the city or municipal mayor also receive complaints.

Criminal and administrative complaints can also be filed at the Ombudsman or regular trial courts.

Once a decision has been rendered, a convicted police officer can exhaust several layers of appeal at the NAPOLCOM, Secretary of Interior and Local Government, Civil Service Commission and regular appeals courts.

No central database of cases

While there are several venues for the filing of cases against PNP personnel, there is presently no central database for police officers under investigation or facing any form of disciplinary procedure, according to Atty. Ferdaussi Masnar of the NAPOLCOM Legal Affairs Service.

CNN Philippines collated figures from different disciplinary authorities. The data gathered also covered different periods.

  • IAS: As of August 2016, the IAS has 839 pending cases.
  • NAPOLCOM: From 2010 to 2016, 1,255 cases remain pending against nearly 4,000 police officers. In some cases, more than one police officer was charged.
  • Ombudsman: From the first semester of 2016, 515 cases were filed against PNP officers.

Most of the cases filed at the NAPOLCOM involve officers ranked PO1, PO2 and PO3. Majority of offenses are for grave misconduct, serious neglect of duty and dishonesty.

Grave misconduct includes maltreatment or abuse of any detained person, acts punishable under the anti-graft laws or the Revised Penal Code and cohabiting or maintaining a wife other than one's legitimate spouse.                                

Ombudsman: PNP No. 2 agency with the most cases

According to the Ombudsman, the PNP ranks as the second government agency with the most number of cases, after local government units.

Data from the Ombudsman also showed that the PNP had the same ranking in 2015 when 1,265 cases were filed against PNP personnel, and in 2014, with 1,258 cases.

The anti-crime group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said the complicated process of disciplining and investigating PNP personnel may in itself be prone to corruption and suggests that it be streamlined.

"Kasi kung iba-iba 'yan, minsan naluluto yan," said VACC Chairman Dante Jimenez. "Nandun ang compromise, o padrino o bata-bata system. If there will only be one investigating agency to handle all complaints ng taumbayan, I'm pretty sure mabilis ang cleansing ng ating kapulisan."

[Translation: If the case is in different venues, sometimes the books can be cooked. There is compromise or favoritism. If there will only be one investigating agency to handle all people's complaints, I'm pretty sure the cleansing of our police will be fast.]

But Masnar stressed while there are several disciplinary authorities for PNP personnel, forum shopping or filing the same cases in different venues is not allowed. 

"Kung magsasampa ka ng reklamo sa parehong parties, parehong cause of action, parehong facts and circumstances, dapat isa lang ang sasampahan mo," he said.

[Translation: If you file a complaint against the same parties, with the same cause of action, same facts and circumstances, you should only file with one venue.]

"Once nag-take cognizance na yung isang disciplinary authority, following the principle of exclusivity, dapat it will preclude the other disciplinary authority to take cognizance of the case," Masnar added.

[Translation: Once one disciplinary authority has taken cognizance of the case, following the principle of exclusivity, it should be that it will preclude the other disciplinary authority to take cognizance of the case.]