The ‘high cost’ of having police security

LAST May 24, a Friday, my family and I had a simple dinner to mark the 20th year-to be exact May 24, 1999-of my 2nd life. I’m referring to it as my 2nd life since it was 20 years ago on that day when the Good Lord gave me the chance to survive an ambush in San Juan City which nearly cost me my life.

On that day, six armed men riding in three motorcycles blocked my car and started firing at me when I refused to open my door. Luckily for me, I was only struck by a caliber .45 bullet in my left shoulder giving me the chance to use my weak hand in cocking my old reliable Colt Mark IV in order to trade shots with my would-be killers.

Two cal. .45 slugs were found imbedded at my head rest and they could have directly hit my brain had they fully penetrated the head rest made of foam, all of my car windows except the right window at the rear passenger side were all shattered as a result of that gunfight but I managed to survive after hitting one of my would-be-assassins in the chest. He eventually died in the hospital.

The rest is history as they say. But to this day, I still remember that I was offered police security by then Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force  chief, later PNP chief and now Senator Ping Lacson. In fact, an eight-man police team escorted me to our ancestral home in Quezon City after I was released from hospital.

I turned down the offer and asked those brave policemen who guarded me at the San Juan City Hospital to return to their camp. The reason: I can’t afford to pay their services. I am a friend of the police force but I don’t have the courage, the gall to let somebody guard me 24/7 without giving him anything in return. Call it Filipino hospitality.

Those policemen were not asking me any money for their services and they told me they were under direct orders from their Chief. However, I cannot imagine myself not giving them something in return for the protection they will give me. I cannot imagine dining with my family in a restaurant while my ‘guards’ are waiting for me outside and being bitten by mosquitoes. I also detest the idea of not being able to give them some money to buy some ‘pasalubong’ for their kids at the end of their duty.

Truly, getting a police security is only for those who can afford it. A friend whose son was a kidnapping and murder victim a few years ago told me that he let go of his police security after three years.  Why? He told me that he had spent an average of P200,000 a year or  some P600,000 for the three years he was being closely followed by a policeman-bodyguard.

Right now, only Filipino multi-millionaires can really afford a police security. The simple arithmetic is this: one police security personnel needs to be paid a P15,000 average monthly allowance plus other incidental expenses like meals/gasoline/extra vehicles etc. You double or multiple the amount if you have two or more police bodyguards. In short, you have to have money to give an incentive to your police-bodyguard who is there to literally bite the bullet for you.

Unknown to  many, PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde as early as last year has already ordered Police Security and Protection Group director, Brigadier General Filmore Escobal to strictly study the application for security protection of private citizens in the country to prevent a repetition of embarrassing incidents in the past.

In turn, Escobal told me they were evaluating the assignment of PSPG personnel to civilians including rich businessmen since they don’t want a repeat of an incident in which two PSPG agents were found to be acting as bodyguards of a daughter of jailed suspected female drug lord Yu Yuk Lai.

At present, a PSPG agent’s detail order is being renewed every month. However, the private citizen being protected should be able to prove that there is an existing threat to his/her life, the validation being conducted by the PNP Directorate for Intelligence.

The strict validation is being conducted and approved by the PNP Directorate for Intelligence and Gen. Albayalde—both a requisite for the granting of a protective detail in order to ensure that only those qualified due to threats on their lives can be assigned a PSPG bodyguard, not rich persons with links to drugs and other criminal activities but who feel they can get some respect if they go around with PSPG men guarding them.

The PSPG’s role in protecting private citizens in the country came into the fore anew when Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año ordered the immediate recall of all police security personnel given to Erwin Tulfo and his brothers Ramon, Ben and  Raffy and his wife in the aftermath of Erwin’s threat-laden rant against Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary, the highly-respected retired Army General Rolando ‘Bote’ Bautista.

Although Palace spokesperson Sal Panelo had said they are satisfied with the apology of the pro-administration Erwin  for his tirades against Bautista and everybody must move on already, many of my friends in the police and the military are telling their fellows and subordinates to calm down and most importantly, don’t inflict physical harm on Erwin.

Indeed, Erwin’s uncalled for rants against Bautista have outraged soldiers and policemen, most especially retired and active graduates of the Philippine Military Academy who have shown their faces to support Bautista of PMA ‘Sandiwa’ Class of 1985.

The latest I heard is that officers are calming the nerves of their men especially the Marawi City siege veterans: the young PMA Lieutenants and Captains, the good ordinary soldiers, the war-shocked troopers and snipers who believe in a Scout Ranger named Gen. Bautista and want to make just a simple ‘pitik’ on Erwin.

As I have heard from my sources, Erwin’s  behavior on-air, the last of which saw him cursing and threatening to plunge Secretary Bautista’s ’s face to the toilet might last  cause him to lose his police security permanently.   On Monday, Gen. Albayalde said behavior is among the factors being considered on whether or not to recall the police security escorts provided to private  even as he admitted that the recall “has something to do with his comments to the Secretary of DSWD” although it was not the main reason.