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Topic |  

sundry-thumbby Jes B. Tirol


Last Wednesday, 13 May 2015, I attended the meeting of the City Advisory Council for Police Transformation.  As a historian, I was intrigue by the motto of the Police Force which says, “We Serve – We Protect.”  Since there is no direct object in the statements, I was wondering whom does the Police serve and protect?  If we say the “people”, it would be a general statement which includes the bad, the good, the rich, the poor, etc.

We will try to trace the evolution of our present police force in order to understand the motto “We Serve – We Protect:.


Basic Philosophy

When the Spaniards came to conquer what is now the Philippines, they assumed that the natives were bad and untrustworthy.  When the Spanish Priests established towns, the first official they will appoint was the “alguacil” or the policeman.  His primary function was to serve and protect the Spanish Priest.  The alguacil must be someone who was strong and familiar with weapons.

Sagarino Sendrijas, the brother of Francisco Dagohoy was an aguacil of Inabanga, Bohol.  He was sent by the Parish Priest, Fr. Benito Morales, to arrest the apostate Ibóng.  Ibóng resisted the arrest and a duel ensued where Sagarino was killed.

The priest did not bury alguacil or policeman Sagarino in sacred grounds because he died in a duel.  Francisco “Dagohoy” Sendrijas, who was the Cabeza de Barangay got angry with the injustice done to his brother and on July 4, 1744 Dagohoy started a revolution that lasted until August 30, 1829.

When the United States of America was settled by the English, they assumed that all people are basically good and can be trusted.  This basic principle is enshrined in their Constitution where everybody has the right to bear arms or weapon.

Arrival of Americans


On 17 March 1900 the 44th Volunteer Company from California arrived in Bohol.  It was led by Major Henry Hale.  In consonance with the American belief that men are basically good, Major Hale organized one company of Boholano Policemen led by the then Sergeant Major Pedro Samson.  The Boholanos were given training and supplied with 40 rifles.  After the training, Pedro Samson brought his policemen to the hills and started to fight the Americans.


Despite the situation, Major Hale organized another Police Force, but this time the commanders were Americans.  It must be noted that the Boholano Police Force was organized to serve and protect the Americans.

American Period

During the early American occupation, the Military Police (MP) were also assigned to be the policemen.  By American practice, the MPs were tall and huge soldiers.


When arresting children to be sent to school, the MPs have a penchant of holding the children by the ears.  The Bisayans have a huge basket known as álat (Bohol: ät).  It is characterized with handles like ears found at the edge of the mouth of the basket.

It is the source of the Bisayan word for police, which is álat. Formally the name used was the Spanish word “Polis” but informally the policemen were called álat because they carry the children like the álat basket.


When natives were appointed as policemen, they tend to be showy, which is also another meaning of álat or árat.  Bisayan dictionaries in the 1920s have entries of álat to mean policeman.

When traffic policeman were designated, they were known as sumatin for their penchant to ask so many questions.  In the 1950s until Martial Law (1971), policemen with bulging bellies were known as parák.


Before the Declaration of Martial Law by President Marcos, the Police Force was a function of each Municipality or City.  During Martial Law the Police was integrated as part of the Philippine Constabulary and became the PC-INP. The training and organizational command was handled by the military-like Philippine Constabulary.

After Martial Law, the 1986 Philippines Constitution provided for a Philippines National Police (PNP) which should be national in scope and civilian in character.

Since the existing organizational structure was that of the Philippines Constabulary, today’s policemen are trained like soldiers.  They even have a Special Action Force (SAF) that suffered casualties in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Gone are the days of the policemen which were friendly and familiar with the neighborhood.  The PNP is now one huge bureaucracy with practices and procedures similar to the military.  Policemen are also transferred from place to place every few years.

The PNP is very self-conscious regarding its image and reputation.  However, the PNP have two practices that are inimical to the organization.  First is the constant transferring of police officers.  Many cases filed in Court will be dismissed because the arresting officer is no longer available to testify.  Second is the emphasis on the number of arrests made.  The more arrests done, the Station Commander will be praised and promoted.  This practice runs counter to the objective of the Police Force, which is to maintain peace and order.  If the Station Commander is successful in maintaining peace and order, naturally there will be fewer crimes.  If there will be few crimes committed, there will be few arrests.  If there will be few arrests, the Station Commander will be punished or even dismissed.  Therefore the Police Officer will be punished for being successful in his mission.  It is a big irony!

In the olden days it would be very easy to know whether the police serve and protect the politicians or the people.  The people or voters can vote out of office the politician if the police serve or protect him.

In the present PNP set-up the voters have no power over the PNP.  Their situation is like the Guardia Civil during Spanish times.  It was unlike the alguacil that can be eliminated by vote together with the Gobernadorcillo (Mayor).

The Spanish Guardia Civil viewed the common people as basically wrongdoers.  Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, was once punished for not bowing his head when he passed by a Guardia Civil.

The PNP policy of more arrests, the better, if forcing the policemen to behave like the Spanish Guardia Civil.  It makes you wonder what is meant by “We Serve – We Protect”.

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