Sunday, September 18, 2011
CHOICE OF NEW POLICE CHIEF SIGN OF MEDIA'S ROLE IN CHANGING P-N-P
Director-General Nicanor Bartolome was the face of the Philippine National Police (PNP) even before President Aquino appointed him to the top post, a sign of media’s role in shaping careers in an organization plagued by a poor image.
“In the past no one wanted to lead the public information office,” said retired Chief Supt. Crescencio “Cris” Maralit, who occupied the post for several years and settled in the Baltimore area after his retirement. The office was largely dismissed as a dead-end for young aspiring officers.
He explained that perceptions of police corruption and incompetence coupled with the challenges of modern media now made the PIO an excellent training ground for future chiefs for not only the PNP but also the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Bartolome, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy class 80, is only the 2nd former PIO chief to become Chief, PNP; the other was Director General Arturo Lomibao, PMA class 71.
A Pulse Asia survey earlier this year showed nearly 27% of Filipinos believe the PNP was the most corrupt agency (a small consolation for police leaders because the AFP fared worse at nearly 49%).
“The perception problem has been there ever since,” Maralit said, “Accomplishments no matter how significant were met with doubts.”
He said overcoming the police’s public image remains a major task for the PNP. “They’ve taken off but the improvement is not yet significant. They are on the right track and with Nick there, hopefully he can make the difference,” Maralit said of his one-time subordinate.
“Being the spokesman is a good stepping stone for higher responsibilities,” he averred, “because you get the pulse of both the police as an organization and the community it serves. He gets a good grasp of the political, economic and social issues.”
“All qualifications being equal, it’s great preparation for a future chief of the PNP,” he added.
And having friends in the press can’t hurt. “It’s a big help to be a friend of media, to be the darling of media but only to a certain extent,” he says bemusedly. Maralit believes being a former police spokesman boosts name-recognition not only within the PNP but also among key decision makers in and outside the government.
“In the criminal justice system, the community is the biggest component and being immersed in working with the community helps build a holistic appreciation of the organization,” he explained.
Maralit said the PNP only recently realized the “pervasive” effect of media not only in shaping public awareness and perceptions, but in the age of YouTube and Facebook, also a tool to reform a scandal-prone organization.