The PNP Integrated Transformation Program (ITP)– What is it, really? And as a citizen and civilian, why should it matter to me; and better yet, why should I even care? These are the questions that have been occupying me for the better part of 2 years, and until today, I have yet to arrive at an answer that will give me the courage and willingness to completely embrace this bold initiative. In that time, I’ve had conversations with friends, relatives, and strangers; with foreigners, generals, non-commissioned officers, and with fatalists, visionaries, cynics, patriots and idealists, even encountering the occasional lack of interest of some. I’ve had the privilege of hearing what, I believe, constitutes all sides of the spectrum. And why I perceive that as a privilege is because beyond opening my eyes to the realities and barriers that derail the already seemingly insurmountable task of transforming our National Police, it made me see that I am also at the source of the unworkability that plague our men in blue. I saw myself in each and every person I spoke to. I felt their frustrations and shared their resignation. I hailed their compassion, and belittled their indifference and ignorance. From these conversations, I realized that it’s one thing to be aware, another to have an opinion, and another to be in action. But what makes all the difference for me is first, knowing that I must take responsibility for what I did, what I am doing, and who I have been that has allowed for the collective mistrust in our police to flourish. What those conversations have left me with was the realization that I am as much an agent of transformation as a spectator who lacks the voice and power to truly make a difference in my country; that I actually have a say in what happens to my police.
So what exactly does it mean to take responsibility in the context of my own role in the PNP’s transformation? Does it mean blaming myself? Surely, I can’t blame myself for the acts of others. That would be crazy. Does it mean blaming others? I certainly doubt that blaming others is taking responsibility for anything. Responsibility for me is knowing that my opinions, words, and actions play a significant role in the way I perceive the PNP, and consequently on the success of the transformation program itself; that for as long as the totality of who I am suggests that transformation is impossible, then that’s how the police will always appear to me – an organization made of men and women incapable of any kind of change. Simply put, if I am not open even to the possibility of a world-class police force, then not only has the program lost a potential supporter, it has already failed in my eyes. Now imagine that sentiment spread throughout our country. I understand that it would be reckless and irresponsible for me to make a sweeping generalization, but I am finding it difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that the majority of our population are not big fans of the police and are quick to dismiss the possibility of any kind transformation, and rightly so for who could blame them? Corruption, extortion, abuse of power… the list goes on. Even some officers expressed their reluctance in supporting what for them is either just a “futile endeavor” or a program that will eventually die out. Imagine that? Policemen and women themselves shrugging off what could possibly be the key to addressing their own concerns about where they work, for after all, it is not just the general public that is affected. We civilians tend to forget that policemen suffer as well, if not, more from the institutional cracks and the crookedness found in the way the PNP is, and has been run, and they way it is, and has been perceived all these years.
In the time I spent talking to people about this, it was not unusual to hear words like “impossible” or “no chance in hell.” And therein lies the biggest hurdle of them all. The transformation program has already failed by virtue of the fact that most people don’t think it will happen; how can we expect it to succeed if the police can’t even get their foot in the door because no one’s home? Sure, we can cite all of our favorite “sources” to the problems that our country faces and also the future of our police: economics, lack of proper education, overpopulation, or plain old fashion anemic political will; but for the simple reason that civilians AND policemen and women are not open to it, then we can be inclined to expect nothing from the ITP. It’s one thing for the police to transform and it’s another to the have a public willing to embrace it. Much like community policing, it requires a concerted effort to get the job done.
What I am saying here is that there is no one answer or solution to get to when it comes to instituting change in our police. Everyone has a role to play in this effort, and the bottom-line is that without multisectoral partnership, it is impossible. Some argue that before their support can be given, their trust must be gained by having the police transform themselves first. Although I understand this kind of logic, I completely disagree with it. It strikes me as not only selfish but devoid of any kind of honest desire for transformation, because there is a lack of willingness to do whatever it takes; even if it includes putting their faith in the program for no other reason than having a world class police force. The future of our PNP is too precious for pride to get in the way. What there is to do, is to take a stand; and to be committed to that stand despite any circumstance that can get in the way.