Then he went after the kotong cops, appropriate for the keystone variety that populated the PNP, but of the worse kind, since they preyed on poor jeepney and taxicab drivers as well as haulers and truckers. Subsequent arrests reinforced the message, and kotong, scourge of the poor, miraculously stopped. Unofficial reports have it that the jeepney and taxi drivers increased their daily revenues while truckers and haulers saved up to PhP 1000.00 per trip.
Restoring the “old glory of the policeman” was foremost in Ping’s mind when he thought of the drive against kotong cops. But Ping’s passion to rid the poor of mulcters and tormentors can be traced back to his younger days when his father was a driver himself and his mother was a market vendor who sew all his clothes. Since his youth he hated bullies especially those preying on the hapless. Once, still in his well-ironed clothes, the young Ping pounced on a drunk toughie much bigger than him. Ping could no longer stand the persistent harassment the neighborhood suffered from him.
Ping Lacson became synonymous to kotong-buster and drivers of jeepneys and delivery trucks enthusiastically displayed his campaign stickers along the country’s major routes during the last senatorial election.
To impress on his officers how serious his crusade to reform the police was, Lacson ordered them off the golf courses during work hours. The first to receive such orders were his own PMA classmates in the PNP hierarchy. One ranking police officer flaunting political connections ignored the orders and was promptly chastised. Suddenly, the golf courses were returned to businessmen and sportsmen, minus the ubiquitous presence of strutting officers and their numerous bodyguards.
Then, slim Ping decreed a 34-inch waistline max, and suddenly, pictures of huffing and puffing generals and colonels all exorcising the bulge from their systems caught the nation’s attention. He gave his generals a deadline, and even impossible 40-inchers forced themselves to trim. Many grumbled at first but soon recognized the benefit to their health and kept the good habit of keeping fit for work even when Lacson was no longer their chief.
He enforced a strict “no-take” policy on jueteng intelihensya or protection money, something that incurred him the ire of unrepentant police scalawags and their cohorts. When a certain regional commander in Luzon played deaf to his orders, he shamed him before peers and even a congressional committee. The guy promised “no take” in a month’s time, and he complied. Thus, even the self-confessed jueteng bagman, Chavit Singson, could not pin Lacson down on his tale of the ledger.
His handling of funds was exemplary, and would make a good case study in “corporate” governance. Only 15 percent of operating funds would be retained at headquarters, and 85 percent to the field units. Suddenly the mobile patrol had gasoline aplenty. The desk officers had paper and carbon too. Even gasoline allocation for the director general’s office, which Lacson found to be capable of running a hundred cars on a daily basis, was downloaded to the field units. Morale was lifted. And Ping gave them a new uniform to boot, the better to show the public his cops had changed. Almost overnight, the image of keystone cop was transformed into one of reliable friend.
Using transparency to cut down on graft, he published an itemized breakdown of the PNP budget on the internet with hotline phone numbers and e-mail addresses so that police personnel and the public in the province could report corrupt officials to the office of the PNP chief. Apparently the sting worked. During his tenure, Ping dismissed more than 2,000 police officers for violations against the public trust.
Realizing that the PNP can not fully rely on government to provide basic police equipment , Lacson initiated the establishment of the PNP Foundation Incorporated. The Foundation banked principally on the credibility restored by Lacson and raised over one hundred sixty million pesos from donors coming from the simplest folks to the biggest business enterprises. It is worthy to note that the interest generated by the PNPFI from its corpus of funds was sufficient to provide 100 motorcycles to the PNP even a year after Ping stepped down as Chief PNP. It is slated to provide a hundred more within the year. The Foundation is being managed by reputable personalities led by Congressman Gilbert Teodoro as chairman.
In his short 14-month stint, cut short by Edsa II, Ping was able to effect a magical turnaround in public perception of the police institution. In the last quarter survey for the year 2000, the Philippine National Police had a net approval rating of positive 58, with only 11 percent of the population retaining their negative image of the police. Never had so much been done in so little a time.
Senator Lacson’s cardinal principle is very inspiring: What is right, must be kept right. What is wrong, must be set right. This is a leader principle that made him a recipient of 2 Outstanding Achievement Medals, 5 Bronze Cross Medals, 17 Military Merit Medals, 3 Medalya ng Kadakilaan, and 3 Medalya ng Kagalingan Awards. In 1982 he was the PC Metrodiscom Officer of the Year. In 1988, he received the Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines (TOPP) and PMA Alumni Achievement Award, among others.
In academe, the AFP Command and General Staff College awarded him with a Certificate of Academic Excellence. He earned his Masters in Government Management from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
But Lacson is not all work. He is a deeply involved family man. He loves his wife Alice and children Ronald, Panfilo Jr. and Jeric very much. As a doting grandfather, he loves his grandchildren even more.
He always reminds his loved ones how important it is to uphold integrity in their lives. If he is strict in requiring discipline and uprightness among those who work under him, the stricter he is in demanding the same from his family members.
What do the Filipino People think of him? Very highly. As Chief, PNP, he enjoyed a very high awareness of 93% and a high approval rating of 73% nationwide.
He has his fair share of detractors and critics, as every good leader does. But even some of these critics grudgingly admire – privately and openly – the seriousness of mind, honesty of heart and strong conviction of Ping Lacson. According to one such critic, Lacson is still the best thing that ever happened to the Philippine National Police and to peace and order in the Philippines.
People who believe in Ping Lacson continue to grow in number. Many are of the belief that if he was able to discipline the PNP, he can do wonders for the country. Reluctantly at first, he soon decided to continue his crusade for better public service and ran for the Senate. That was when his sworn enemies panicked and decided to unleash their vicious campaign to destroy his name and person.
During the last senatorial election, his political opponents declared a state of rebellion and issued warrant of arrest against him. They succeeded in disrupting his campaign but failed to prevent his multitude of believers from electing him to the Senate.
Once in the Senate, Ping immediately captured the imagination of the people as a promising national leader. That was the beginning of Ping’s unending struggle to fend off various charges of impropriety that are all designed to thwart his surging political career. The attacks have been waged predominantly in the press quoting sources ranging from con artists to paid propaganda hacks. “Ang punong mabunga ang siyang binabato,” lament people in the street.
But despite the distractions coming from the camp of those desperately seeking his downfall, Senator Ping Lacson buckled down to work and filed several bills and resolutions to boost the anti-crime effort in the country. He never wavered to live up to his reputation as a no-nonsense public official. In the Senate he once fired and filed charges against two of his own staff for extorting money.
The Asian Wall Street Journal, speculating on a crime fighter getting elected President, particularly quoted Ping, “The only way to clean up crime is to take care of the derelicts in government.” Those words send shivers down the spine of inept, corrupt and undisciplined public officials who have brought misery and poverty to the people. Coming from an acknowledged crime fighter, those words are strong affirmation of the principle of waging war against the very roots of crime to eliminate crime.
And from targeting kotong cops during his PNP days, Ping advanced and trained his aim against the biggest kotong enterprises that bleed the people dry – the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) with their notorious and oppressive Power Price Adjustment (PPA). He publicly denounced the scandalous profits these companies amass at the expense of the people. The long-suffering power consumers suddenly found an ally who can be trusted to fight by their side to the finish. Fast and with certainty Ping, the senator, is learning to carry the broad struggle of the Filipinos by heart.
So who’s afraid of Ping Lacson? Not the drivers, not the vendors, not the hard-toiling masses, not the concerned businessmen, not the honest and patriotic government employees and certainly not the Filipinos who are drained by the cycle of corruption that has plunged the country down the pit of humiliation.
People seeking a brighter future for the country can only chorus, “What is right, must be kept right …What is wrong, must be set right.”
The voice of the people is the voice of God. Change for the better is within the power of the people. It is within their collective will. Freely they must issue the ORDER now for that change, with determination and without fear.