Police commission swamped with administrative cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Grave misconduct tops the number of offenses filed against officers of the Philippine National Police at the National Police Commission.

Of 3,182 cases filed from 1999-2014, more than 77% (2,463) are for grave misconduct which include maltreatment or abuse of any detained person, cohabiting or maintaining a wife other than his legitimate spouse, and other acts punishable under the anti-graft laws or the Revised Penal Code.

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Atty. Ferdaussi Masnar of NAPOLCOM's Legal Affairs Service also says, many of these cases involve violations of the Republic Act 9262 or Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act - which may fall as grave misconduct or conduct unbecoming of a police officer.

"Halimbawa ang isang pulis ay nagkaroon ng anak tapos di siya nagbigay ng suporta, that is considered as economic abuse. So pwede rin isampa yun sa NAPOLCOM. 'Yun ay tinatanggap din namin at kailangan dumaan sa proseso," explains Masnar. [For example, when a police officer fails to provide support for his child, that is considered as economic abuse. That can be filed at the NAPOLCOM. We receive it and ensure it undergoes due process.]

Masnar says such cases  are usually  dismissed  because a complainant would file an affidavit of desistance, after the PNP officer facing the charge promises to financially support his/her child.

He adds the NAPOLCOM is duty-bound to hear every case filed, including those which at first look are already dismissable. He cites a complaint of grave misconduct against a police officer for failing to make good on marriage proposal.

"Allegedly according to her (complainant), there is grave misconduct considering that there is breach of promise to marry. But in so far as the commission is concerned, that is not subject to our jurisidction. Because the commission cannot compel someone to marry another because that is a personal choice," says Masnar.

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Lack of Personnel, delayed hearings

Masnar says such seemingly flimsy cases — that may be settled on a personal level--add to the agency's already excessive workload. The NAPOLCOM only has 7 lawyers--an almost ridiculous number compared to the thousands of cases that need to be resolved.

This lack of personnel leads to many cases getting delayed.

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CNN Philippines talked to Agnes (not her real name), who filed a case of  misconduct against a Police Officer 1 in 2012. The officer allegedly pointed a gun at her, to force her to sign documents to pay off her employers' debts.

Agnes  was only called in for a hearing last year by the National Capital Region Police Office, where her case ended up. The four-year delay, Agnes says, is a travesty.

Agnes laments,  "Wala pa ring nangyayari. Sa case ko, 5 years na. Malaya pa din siya, nagagawa niya gusto niya. Walang hustisya." [Nothing is happening. In my case, it's been 5 years. He's still free. He can do whatever he wants. There is no justice.]

Criminal charges she filed in a local court were dismissed.

But the NAPOLCOM, by law, is mandated to have a decision on administrative cases within 60 days, according to Masnar. However, cases like that  of Agnes are delayed due to the scheduling of hearings.

"Usually if the parties are represented by counsel, they would want to go to  a full blown trial. Not necessarily to delay, but probably to determine the credibility of witnesses being presented. Kaya lang naman po nagtatagal yun is because of the volume of cases being handled by the hearing officers," explains Masnar.

Reforms to speed up disciplinary procedures

The NAPOLCOM has revised its rules to speed up the resolution of cases. In Memorandum Circular 2016-002, parties can now file verified position papers in lieu of a full blown hearing.

Several bills have also been filed in Congress to strenghen the PNP's Internal Affair's Service, dubbed "the police of the police."

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who also served as  PNP Chief, filed Senate Bill 1310 requiring the IAS to end its investigation on erring policemen within 30 days, after which appropriate administrative and/or criminal charges will then be filed immediately. The IAS would also have only 30 days to resolve an administrative case.

Lacson's  bill also provides an increase in IAS personnel--setting the number of its staff at 5 percent of  the total strength of the PNP.