PNP CHIEF GENERAL GUILLERMO ELEAZAR
CPNP Gen. Guillermo Eleazar’s
leadership is anchored on
three major concepts—clean
offices, clean ranks, and
BY HELEN HERNANE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MANUEL GENEROSO
Leading the 220,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) force is no easy task. But despite having only six months to serve as its chief, General Guillermo Eleazar is determined to leave his mark. And instead of changing the system by applying institutional changes, Eleazar wants to focus on strictly implementing existing rules and laws.
“All of the necessary policies, programs, and doctrines already exist. Every past PNP Chief thought of everything to further improve the force. Even with every new situation, there are revised memorandum circulars. Everything is in place, what needs improvement is enforcing them, especially those [rules] which people tend to overlook because of the system or perhaps, culture,” Eleazar stresses.
The general, therefore, does not want to uproot the system. Rather, as his legacy, he wants a “cleaner” force and country—literally and figuratively. His entire halfyear program is anchored on three major concepts—clean offices, cleaning the ranks, and cleaning the community. Without missing a beat, the seasoned officer explains his rationale behind this program which is dubbed as the “Intensified Cleanliness Policy.”
As a guide, the general says he is influenced by the “Broken Windows Theory” which is a criminology theory introduced in 1982 by two social scientists, James Wilson and George Kelling. This theory eventually became popular in the 90s in the United States when New York police commissioner William Bratton, with the support of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, used it to guide policing procedures. They named this the “Quality of Life” campaign.
Going by the name itself, the “Broken Windows Theory” states that small, visible signs of crimes (or cracks in the windows), if not fixed, will eventually lead to bigger problems. In policing, it means cracking down on minor crimes (such as loitering, jaywalking, vandalism, curfew violations, etc.) to create an orderly and disciplined atmosphere. This lawful environment, in turn, discourages bigger crimes and further disorder.
Since its inception, the theory has been tested by researchers in various locations all over the world, not just New York. One study was conducted in 2005 in Lowell, Massachusetts by Harvard University and Suffolk University researchers who worked with the local police. They identified over 30 areas in the city which are considered “hotspots” for crime. In half of these places, the police force cleared trash, discouraged loitering, fixed streetlights, increased misdemeanor arrests, expanded mental health services, and provided aid for the homeless. Meanwhile, no changes were implemented on the other half of the identified “hotspots.” In conclusion, the study revealed that the areas which were given minor improvements registered a 20% drop in calls to the police. It also concluded that visibly cleaning up the neighborhood was more effective than making more arrests.
In a similar study conducted in the Netherlands in 2007 and 2008, researchers from the University of Groningen concluded that “One example of disorder, like graffiti or littering, can indeed encourage another, like stealing.”
But the theory is not without criticism. Some believe that while it worked in some areas, the theory in itself is not the reason for the successful drop in crime. They reasoned that other factors are just as important to make the theory successful and that long-term reduction in crime involves more than just effective policing. There were also incidences of discrimination which led to, Wilson and Kelling, the orginal theorists, stating that the theory should not equate to ‘zero tolerance’ and moreover, it requires “careful training, guidelines, and supervision” and a positive relationship with the community.
New York implemented this theory for over a decade and some data suggest that the results may have been successful. While the correlation between the two is unsure, what is certain, however, is that whatever the result is, it did not happen overnight. And it is a fact that doesn’t elude the PNP’s 26th chief.
“This isn’t something we can accomplish in six months which, anyone would agree, is a very short period of time,” he admits. “But I want to inspire the organization by starting this and perhaps they can continue implementing it even long after I leave my post.”
And with the clear-cut, three-pronged plan he set in place since his appointment as chief in May 2021, his hopes of long-term change may not be so farfetched.
Next To Godliness
First, the program instills discipline in the ranks by making sure that all police infrastructure (precincts, cars, even the parking lots of police buildings) are dirtand trash-free.
“A clean office is basic. When people, have concerns, they head to the police stations. They don’t go to the [national] headquarters, not even the provincial headquarters. And when they see that the stations are dirty and foul-smelling, can the police officers expect to garner any respect? These police stations are the windows to the soul of the Philippine National Police. They generate the first impression and impressions last,” Eleazar explains.
The next prong of the program involves cleaning the PNP ranks, which involves short-term and long-term solutions. A quick “remedy” would be to immediately investigate and, if needed, remove any officer which is involved in a crime. But the general clarifies that it’s not a one-way ticket to the guillotine and there is a chance for reformation, but only “if they can still be saved.”
For the long-term solution, Eleazar proposes massive changes to the recruitment process. The chief shares that they started a “faceless, nameless” recruitment system which uses a QR (quick response) code. He shares that this method reduces human interventions which aims to stop the “palakasan” system and it is applied to the entire recruitment system, even tests (agility test, neuropsychiatry test, and drug test).
“In our culture, if you don’t know anyone inside [the force], your application may be removed [to favor those who have connections inside]. Isipin mo, applicants are literally forced to look for people inside the force who will ensure that their applications are processed. Ano’ng matututunan nila doon kung simula palang, korupsyon na’ng bubungad sa aplikante (What can we expect our applicants to learn from this experience if from the very start, they are immediately exposed to corruption within the system)?
We are cleaning house,” Eleazar says.
Lastly, the third part of the program involves “cleaning the streets.” Eleazar shares that this concept includes the government’s drive against any and all criminality—illegal drugs, terrorism, and even cybercrime. “Kalinisan sa pag-iisip, sa katawan, sa organisasyon (Cleanliness in thought, physical appearance, and organization-wise). Discipline and everything else will follow,” he says.
For the 55-year-old police chief, his program aims to address the biggest concern of the PNP which is the “dirty” system. He explains that it should be their top priority, especially because of the “blessings” that the force has received from the government, which includes several pay hikes.
“That salary increase, everyone [in the force] is really grateful for it especially during this pandemic. Many lost their jobs and are hungry. Meanwhile, we still have our jobs and our salary is doubled. That’s why if someone doesn’t deserve to be in the PNP, then we have to remove them. There are more deserving individuals who are very much willing to properly serve and protect,” Eleazar shares.
“While there are only a couple of delinquent police officers, those few errant individuals drag down the entire force. Their ‘small mistakes’ are highlighted more than our accomplishments, nasisira kami. Kaya gusto namin tanggalin yung mga abusado na pulis at mga utak-kriminal (we are ruined which is why we want to remove abusive police officers who have a criminal mind).”
This elaborate strategy is Eleazar’s plan to revitalize public trust, which he admits has been damaged through the years. This is even more so in recent years as reports of cops abusing their power have become prevalent as local governments impose lockdowns and strict curfews. But while the pandemic has heavily affected everyone, the Philippine Military Academy alumnus reveals that it has actually helped their mission to reduce street crimes.
“One of the major interventions that the government imposed is the lockdown, restriction of movement. Because of this, even criminals’ movements are lessened which lead to a drop in crime rates. Another factor is the increased police presence in populated areas. We are a part of the task force implementing health protocols and our job is to make sure people follow these rules and man checkpoints. Increased police visibility also helps reduce crime,” Eleazar explains.
Crime statistics primarily involve the calculation of index crimes—crimes against persons (homicide, murder, rape, or physical injury) and crimes against property (theft, robbery, carjacking, carnapping, and stealing cattle). According to PNP data, from July 2016 to June 2021, over 395,000 index crimes were recorded nationwide. This is a 64 percent drop compared to the index crimes rate for the last five years of the Aquino administration.
By all accounts, crime rates in the past five years have been significantly lower than the past administration’s figures. Crimes against persons dropped by 62.87 percent; while crimes against property declined by 65.55 percent. Geographically, reported crimes in each region also decreased significantly— crimes in Luzon fell by 65.35 percent; Visayas crimes declined by 59.64 percent; Mindanao crimes fell by 70.90 percent; and crimes in the National Capital Region (NCR) fell by 59.32 percent.
Many human rights advocates, however, believe that these figures are incomplete and that they don’t reflect reality. The government’s war against drugs—Oplan Tokhang, Oplan High Value Targets (HVT), Operation Double Barrel, and more—resulted in the death of nearly 6,000 individuals during anti-drug operations from July 2016 to September 2020, according to the data from the PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Because of the numerous allegations surrounding the government’s drug operations, the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally launched an investigation on September 15. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said: “My investigation will seek to uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability. We will focus our efforts on ensuring a successful, independent, and impartial investigation.”
Eleazar stresses that the PNP is open for investigation because they have “nothing to hide.” He shares that one of the first things he did when he took over the PNP was to meet with Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra and talk about the nature of the operations of the drug war. During that meeting, he also expressed their willingness to cooperate and volunteered to examine the cases and see where there were “lapses.”
The police chief also mentions the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to the PNP and the DOJ to review the cases. “This isn’t anything new; we’ve been investigating as well. And as I’ve said in the past, [the PNP] is willing to help with regards to the ICC investigations,” he says.
They say the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. And the general is not one to shy away from admitting the force’s shortcomings. Eleazar, however, hopes that, with his leadership, people will have more faith in the PNP. Also, through their programs—faceless and nameless application process, Intensified Cleanliness Policy, and e-sumbong—the top cop is optimistic that the organization will earn back the people’s trust.
“We’re not a perfect organization; we have faults. But my principle is that we have nothing to hide and we’re not covering for our people’s mistakes. If someone does something wrong, they will go through the due process. I hope the people will not tire of helping us when we make mistakes. Help us so that we can be more effective. Madadapa kami, pero tulungan niyo kami na makabangon (We will fall, but please help us rise again),” Eleazar ends.