PNP takes another hit

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday said he would talk with detained former senator Leila de Lima for her possible transfer out of the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame, Quezon City.

De Lima was briefly taken hostage during a foiled escape attempt by three alleged members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group that resulted in the stabbing of a policeman early morning.

All three suspects were killed in an incident that left De Lima, who is facing drug-related charges, shaken but unharmed, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos.

The incident should rock the PNP, led by General Rodolfo Azurin Jr., to its core over very serious questions being raised by the public. First, how did the three ASG members manage to stab a policeman delivering food to them?

Second, how did one of the three, identified by the police as Feliciano Sulayao Jr., able to breach De Lima’s quarters to hold her hostage?

In relation to the second question, wasn’t De Lima a high-value person under PNP custody that added security should have been in place to stop Sulayao or anyone from putting her life in danger?

Fourth, if the PNP cannot protect persons under its custody, how can people have faith that cops can protect them elsewhere like on the streets and in public places?

Never mind people feeling safe inside their homes against common criminals like akyat-bahay thieves as cops, in such instances, can only be expected to act after the fact or after crimes had already been committed.

But back to the Sunday morning fiasco: A common thread on social media is that if the PNP cannot do a proper job inside its very headquarters at Camp Crame, it cannot be expected to do a good job outside of it.

This incident is just the latest in a series of events that have undermined people’s faith in the PNP under the Marcos administration, with perceived rising criminality notwithstanding PNP data claiming otherwise.

For every drug haul scored by the authorities, people wonder how many kilos more of narcotics have reached the streets to lay to waste the victories that had been scored in the last half-decade in the war against drugs.

As the first PNP chief of then-President Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has the stature to call out the present police leadership over what the lawmaker said was the lack of spunk. According to Dela Rosa, criminals should fear the members of the PNP and not the other way around.

The escape-abduction incident at Crame came within just days of the cold-blooded killing of broadcaster Percival Mabasa, aka Percy Lapid, last 3 October as he was driving to the studio for his trademark bombastic broadcasts.

What’s next?

The PNP has its job cut out for it, and it’s not an easy one notwithstanding efforts by the government to provide its members with equipment and big salary increases under Duterte.

One issue government should address has to do with securing inmates whether those detained while undergoing trials or detained to serve sentences handed by the courts.

The PNP headquarters is no place to be keeping inmates as while it would be foolhardy for any syndicate to spring its members detained there, it’s perfect for escape attempts from the inside out.

Being a hub for services offered to the public, the PNP headquarters is always teeming with people, including transacting civilians so that escapees can easily blend in with the public.

Past escapes should have borne out this as fact a long time ago. In 2003, Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi and two other extremists also escaped from Camp Crame to the embarrassment of the Philippine government over claimed police corruption or gross incompetence.

Al Ghozi, who would later be killed, simply walked out of the sprawling PNP headquarters where people are thoroughly checked going in, but rarely, if at all, going out.

A bomb maker of the Jemaah Islamiah, Al Ghozi was, however, not the first high-profile inmate to escape from Camp Crame.

Then-Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani beat him to that honor when he climbed through a ceiling duct to dash to freedom in 1995. Lesson learned? Not really.

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