‘Kaldag’ a normal way to discipline cops

IT may be civilian in nature but still, officers and men of the Philippine National Police are used to a strict regimentary style of discipline that, unlike the Armed Forces, the PNP National Headquarters has its regular Monday flag-raising and Friday flag-lowering ceremonies and regular formation.

PNP officers from the elite Philippine Military Academy and their counterparts from the PNPA Academy are also known for spotting anything wrong as soon as their men march from a distance or stand in attention. Thus, there are countless cases of policemen who have earned the ire of their superiors after they were observed to be not paying attention to given orders.

Some of these policemen who were spotted talking with each other or moving while everybody is at attention know the word ‘kaldag’ from their superiors including generals as far as I know but nobody have complained. To the uninitiated, the word ‘kaldag’ means a quick punch to the stomach’ or any other form of physical exercises given to a shabby police personnel. No more administrative charges but a simple ‘kaldag’ to teach someone a lesson. All policemen and soldiers and other law enforcers who underwent real training know what ‘kaldag’ means.

I am raising this matter in the wake of  the administrative relief of  Eastern Police District director, Brigadier General Christopher Tambungan of PNPA Class 1987 whose only fault is that his actuations-it was not even a ‘kaldag’- on one of his personnel was recorded on the precinct’s CCTV camera and prompted my good friend, NCRPO director, Major General Gilor Eleazar to relieve him from his post. I’m not questioning the wisdom of Eleazar to order the relief of Tambungan. However, I am raising some matters for the information of the general public.

Many of us and I were not present when Tambungan allegedly verbally and physically abused one Corporal April Domingo in front of the San Juan Police-Community Precinct in Greenhills last May 22. However, the CCTV footage earned him the ire of the netizens including policemen who have condemned him for his abusive act.

Understandably, netizens who viewed the short CCTV footage will condemn Tambungan to high heavens since it appears he was really abusing his subordinate, a policewoman in particular. However, many of my friends in the force have told me they are quite sure that policemen who have joined those who condemned the official were among those who were disciplined in the past by the EPD director and were slapped with administrative charges.

I was told that many of them are policemen who were caught driving motorcycles without helmets or license by the official simply because they thought that nobody will accost them in the streets or the policemen who were caught sleeping while on duty and stripped of their service firearms by Tambungan without them knowing it because they were soundly asleep and snoring then.

Tambungan’s uncanny way of disciplining cops in fact has endeared him to PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde when the latter was still the NCRPO director in 2017. It was the very same reason why Albayalde handpicked him to head the EPD last March although word came out earlier that a member of PMA Class 1989, newly-promoted Brig. Gen. Sterling Blanco would be designated as EPD director that month.

Many have condemned Tambungan for his act but in the interest of fair play, let me share some words from those who are not quick to judge him since they know his very strict ways  when it comes to enforcing discipline in the ranks.  “Let’s give Gen. Tambungan his own fair share here. Truth of the matter is that he was not relieved for serious offenses like drugs, rape, kidnapping and murder. He was relieved because he allegedly manhandled his subordinate,” one police general told me on condition of anonimity.

My 2nd point is who really leaked the short CCTV footage to a television station. As far as I know, there is a protocol when it comes to releasing CCTV recordings in a police station and not all policeman has access to it. If Tambungan is correct in saying that Cpl. Domingo was the one who ‘leaked’ the footage to the TV station, then she has some lots of explaining to do.

In 2015, the PNP installed  CCTV cameras in all five NCRPO districts and 38 police stations to  ‘enable the PNP to deter unacceptable behavior, ensure security and safety of individuals transacting within PNP premises and curb unscrupulous activities among personnel, as well as to closely monitor and record all walk-in complainants in PNP premises.”  

If all these CCTV cameras are still working to this date, then it would be much  easier for Gen. Albayalde and Eleazar and all other NCRPO District Directors to catch unacceptable behaviors of their men including sleeping or drinking while on duty, being on improper uniform, failing to properly address complaints from the public and most importantly, engaging in irregularities including ‘kotong.’

If that’s the case, who really provided the media the short CCTV footage  which triggered the relief of Tambungan? If Santiago was indeed the one who ‘leaked’ the recording, then this should be a warning to all police commanders to be wary of the possibility that they may suffer the same fate as that of Tambungan in the future.

I learned that he official got irked when the policewoman immediately and casually told him they have no mobile or motorcycle. The policewoman’s casual remark to her District Director was “Sir, wala na hong available dahil kay Chief,PNP.”

That remark caught the ire of the official. “Ang gusto ko lang naman ay wag ganun ang pagsagot. Pinapaganda natin ang imahe ng Pambansang Pulisya pero kung ako nga na District Director niya ay ganun na ang pakikitungo niya, papaano pa ang karaniwang tao, ang publiko na hihingi ng tulong sa kanya,” he said.

Last May 15 or three days after the Greenhills incident, Santiago became the subject of an EPD pre-charge investigation for violation of a National Police Commission circular, in particular for her ‘refusal to render assistance to her immediate superior.’ The policewoman did not deny the fact that she exhibited  actuations which did not satisfy the demand of the EPD director. Thus, the EPD -DIDM ruled she will be charged administratively for simple neglect of duty.