Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remembering TRINA Forever! The TRINA Benchmark of Minimum Acceptable Behavior for the Police and All Public Officials

22 April 2009

Nothing we’ll ever say or do could ever console the Failon family. Their loss is irreplaceable. But we need not remember Trina's death simply as a tragedy forever.  It can be a story of hope and triumph, rebirth and renewal amidst the tragedy.

How do we do that? 

By remembering 
Trust  Respect Integrity Neighborliness Accountability

The police should 

Maintain the  Trust of the public in performing their duties
Observe          Respect for the rights of both victim and suspect
Keep                Integrity in their person
Show              Neighborliness especially to the grieving 
Accept            Accountability for their actions

We’ve never had such a time as this in our history.  This is our chance to impose a rigid set of minimum standards for police behavior.

I’m sure the police have their own set of standards and rules.  But do we know about them? Are they published?  Readily accessible?  Readily understandable?  Widely taught?  Innovatively presented?  Easily implementable?  Easily enforceable?    

Perhaps just as important, are these standards and rules acceptable to us?  Do we have a say in crafting them or in revising or upgrading them or recalibrating them when necessary?

A benchmark is a standard and for it to be meaningful, it should be something that we clearly understand, something measurable or perceptible, something we can check.  Something that children can study in school or by themselves so that even they will have an idea of how to gauge the performance, demeanor and behavior of police officers who are supposed to serve and protect all of us.

In the midst of the ongoing national tragedy, a number of police officers crossed a line they should not have crossed in effecting the arrests on members of the Failon household.  These police officers imposed their will on a family that was grieving and somehow managed to make themselves morally accountable for possibly hastening the death of a dying suicide victim, implementing a warrantless arrest of obstruction of justice suspects who were clearly not on the run, applying excessive use of force and displaying arrogance in the process.  They flaunted abuse of authority before national television and somehow expected to get away with it.

In the process, Malacañang itself was put on the defensive. Nakuryente (electrocuted) is what they call it.  Press Secretary Cerge Remonde’s belated admonition to police officers to respect the rights and privacy of the grieving Failon family fell flat in the face of the damage that by then, had been already done.

We are at a crossroads in Philippine history. Let’s seize the moment. That’s how we’re going to change this country. 

Filipino Christians should realize that prayer alone will not change our country.  We pray to ask God for guidance as to what to do, for strength and wisdom in doing what He tells us to do and for His Spirit’s power in bringing about what needs to be done.  That is the Biblical teaching.  The Jewish prophet Nehemiah could not have rebuilt Jerusalem’s shattered walls if he had simply prayed about it and stayed in Persia.  No!  He went to the Persian king, pleaded with the monarch to allow him to go back home and did so upon obtaining permission.

He lost no time in building an army of prayer-worker-warriors.  An army who prayed and worked while staying prepared to defend themselves in case of war.  And eventually, he succeeded in leading the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls!  

What we need is not just to learn the lessons and then forget about them when the memory of the incident fades.  What we need is to learn the lessons, discuss and lay down a plan of action and then act on it!  By setting and laying down the TRINA Benchmark, that is what we can do!

When we next talk of Trina’s story, it should not be an unmitigated tragedy.  It should be the start of a process of renewal, the rebirth of hope. With Trina’s story, we’ll still walk away with memories of the tragedy but also with something else — the self-respect and dignity of a nation that says “Enough!” "Enough of the abuse!"  "Enough of the indifference to the abuse!" 

Perhaps to help us do that, we have a Chairperson of the Commission of Human Rights in the person of Atty. Leila de Lima who doesn't keep quiet in the face of apparent injustice.  She’s not perfect, nobody is but no one can say that she's not trying to do a good job. 

Those of us who have the time or the opportunity to do so should attend the hearings that the CHR intends to hold on this case.  Failing that, we can write or send email messages to Atty. Leila De Lima and tell her that we’re interested in change and that what she's doing contributes a lot towards bringing about that change. 

I am not singling out the police about this matter.  It's just that they are the ones who are now in the spotlight. But the TRINA benchmark is applicable to ALL public officials. Eventually, to all of us. We'll just start with the police. 

To be fair to the police, the PNP and the DILG, the decision by Secretary Ronaldo Puno to have the NBI take the lead in the Trina investigation is a step in the right direction.  By giving way, he's showing that the police leadership can exercise some humility and listen to the voice of the public that it serves. The PNP has a good website and the NAPOLCOM as well where they can post the TRINA benchmark.  

Exactly what will the TRINA benchmark be or what will it consist of?

My ideas are as follows:

1)  A booklet or series of booklets consisting of various situations using illustrations or pictures comparing the behavior of a GOOD COP with a NOT-SO-GOOD COP.  For example,

1.1 When doing traffic duties, where do traffic cops need to position themselves?  Out in the open or hiding in a dark corner ready to pounce on unsuspecting motorists?

1.2   When apprehending motorists, who should approach who?  The traffic enforcer going to the motorist or the motorist going to the traffic enforcer (with something tucked in the driver license)?  

1.3  When apprehending suspects or inviting people for questioning, should the police disregard counsel who are pleading to talk with their client or should the police respect the suspect's right to counsel?

2)  A booklet explaining in easily-understandable language the laws relevant to the police and other law-enforcement officials.  

Remember that these are just my preliminary ideas.  Nothing set in stone here.   

And this is where the public can help.  If you have your own ideas as to how to implement the TRINA Benchmark, then you can volunteer your inputs and we'll all have a happy time synthesizing all of these inputs.  Eventually, the TRINA Benchmark will be our concise guides that will serve as the conscience and deterrent to future abuses and incompetence. Tulong-tulong tayo, parang bayanihan dahil lahat tayo makikinabang dito!   

As we go about doing this, we should see qualitative improvements in the life of our nation.  All because of TRINA!  And when we remember her, the tears that will flow down our eyes will not only be tears of sadness at her untimely passing but tears of joy that her life, in spite of its sorrows, could be such a tremendous blessing for our nation.

As I post, it's 11:46am, Manila time.  The clouds have suddenly darkened and it's raining hard right here as if  heaven itself is shedding tears of joy at Trina's reunion at the bosom of our Heavenly Father. The angels are shouting and it's as if they're having a fiesta out there! Goodbye Trina, we're going to miss you. 

Mabuhay si TRINA!  Mabuhay ang PINOY!

God bless the Philippines!  

And yes, to God be the glory!

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