What sorts of police do the Philippines deploy? If there is anything to be learned from the case of Ateneo de Manila University star basketball player John Apacible who went on a violent drunken rampage in the wee hours of last Sunday, it is that Philippine Police officers do not make us feel safe.
A video captured by the primary object of Apacible’s fearsome rage that night provides a disturbing account of just how inutile Filipino police officers attending to the incident were.
It is quite evident that the officers tolerated being disrespected by Apacible who easily brushed them aside as he pressed forward in his attack. The person taking the video footage can be observed retreating from Apacible as these officers put in a spineless effort to restrain the Ateneo Blue Eagles forward who towers six feet and four inches and likely packs enough punch in his arms to knock the teeth off anyone who gets in his way.
Just the same, police officers are expected to disarm and immobilise anyone who they deem poses a threat to other people. During the melee caught in that video, Apacible had clearly crossed enough lines to warrant a more, shall we say, physical approach to restraining him. For one thing, he was already caught driving while intoxicated and should have been, right there and then, placed under arrest. The police officers had let that one slide. But one would think physically assaulting a police officer would attract zero tolerance. In this case that one slid past as well.
Well, gee whiz.
How much latitude does one give this boy?
It seems the Ateneo itself is in on the softly-softly approach to dealing with Apacible’s inexcusable behaviour. An image of what looks like an apology letter issued by Apacible was posted today on the ADMU Facebook page. The letter reads in poorly-written Tagalog…
Ako po ay humihingi ng tawad sa nagawa ko nung nakaraang araw. Alam ko pong ako ay nagkamali at dahil dito sobra po akong nahihiya sa aking pamilya, team, school at sa lahat ng naapektuhan nito.
Inisip ko lang ang aking sarili at nakalimutan ko po ang aking mga responsabilidad. Handa po akong tanggapin ang anumang maaring kalabasan ng aking pagkakamali.
Muli, ako po ay humihingi ng tawad.
Translated in English…
I am asking for forgiveness for what I did the previous day. I know I did wrong and because of this I am exceedingly ashamed of myself before my family, team, school and all who were affected by my actions.
I was only thinking about myself and forgot about my responsibilities. I am ready to accept any consequences arising from my mistake.
Again, I am asking for forgiveness.
The best and most sincere way to atone for one’s crime is to serve the time. Interestingly enough, Apacible made no acknowledgement in the above “apology” statement of his violation of the law (disrespect for the state), his assault on the police officers attempting to restrain him, and his attemped assault on the cameraman and the passing vehicles he allegedly struck during his rampage.
Indeed, above all else, any wrongdoing that impacts the community is a state matter and falls squarely within the shoulders of the Law to deal with. The sanctions effected by the Ateneo is a private matter between Apacible and the University. But whatever “justice” the Ateneo ultimately delivers does not in any way change Apacible’s accountability to the state and the Filipino public.
While there are dozens of mainstream news channels reporting on the disciplinary “action” taken by the Ateneo on the matter, there is hardly any information about what the Philippine Police have to say about the incident and the poor form of their police officers attending to the scene. This small incident represents a microcosm of everything that is wrong with law enforcement in the Philippines — from the substandard quality of the police officers themselves to the more macro dysfunction in the way the law is selectively applied based on the social status of the accused.
More importantly, Apacible’s behaviour exhibited in the above video is clearly an insight into the very foundation of the perverted values upon which the crooked, self-righteous, and self-entitled way many wealthy, powerful and influential people in the Philippines may have been raised. If the Philippines’ criminal justice system and the Philippine Police fail the Filipino people they supposedly serve and grant Apacible a Get-Out-of-Jail pass, they will demonstrate the extent to which their institutions have been wholly complicit in turning Philippine society into the criminal society that it is today.
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