Philippine National Police chief, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, tasked police commanders yesterday to strictly monitor the behavior of their personnel, especially those manifesting signs of emotional and mental health problems.
“Mental health should not be ignored. Just like our physical body, it also needs to be given focus and cared for,” Eleazar said in a statement.
Eleazar’s remarks came following a purported suicide attempt by a police trainee of the PNP Maritime Group in Rosario, Cavite.
Based on initial reports, the 25-year-old trainee was found wounded at the rooftop of his boarding house by fellow trainees on Sunday and was rushed to the Divine Grace Hospital for medical treatment. The police trainee, who was diagnosed with depression, survived the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Eleazar said this incident shows the importance of regular checking on cops’ mental health.
“As early as in the training stage, we can say that what cops are going through is not a joke. This is why I reiterate the importance of subjecting all personnel to neuro-psychiatric tests to determine if they are mentally and emotionally capable of being part of the organization. This kind of test will greatly help in preventing personnel from inflicting harm on themselves or on other people,” he added.
Eleazar directed the immediate superiors of the police trainee to monitor him closely and extend necessary assistance.
“Aside from ensuring his treatment in the hospital, it is best that this police trainee is subjected to psychological counseling and evaluation,” he said.
Eleazar earlier said he is seriously considering suggestions on subjecting all police personnel to regular neuro-psychiatric tests in the wake of incidents of violence involving them.
These include Master Sgt. Hensie Zinampan, who was caught on video fatally shooting his neighbor 52-year-old Lilybeth Valdez in Barangay Greater Fairview, Quezon City. The suspect is already in police custody, slapped with criminal and administrative charges.
In December last year, Staff Sgt. Jonel Nuezca was dismissed from the service and is now facing criminal charges for shooting dead his neighbors Sonia and Frank Anthony Gregorio in Paniqui, Tarlac following an altercation.
Eleazar assured that the PNP will explore possible partnerships with groups, institutions, and facilities advocating the importance of mental health.
He also expressed support to the use of a squad system, which the PNP Internal Affairs Service has deemed effective in monitoring the behavior of police officers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the system, groups of policemen are formed into a squad with a designated leader that would train and guide them.
“This not only helps prevent misbehavior among our policemen but also hones the leadership skills of those designated as squad leaders. This system enhances the moral and spiritual values of our police personnel. These squad leaders will train and guide their colleagues who have records of minor offenses but can still be reformed,” he added.
Eleazar tasked the PNP Chaplain Service and the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management to review the protocols for the squad system as he wants its strict enforcement in all police offices and units to further intensify internal cleansing efforts of the PNP.
IAS Director General Alfegar Triambulo said the squad system provides emotional and psychological help to PNP personnel who are having a difficult time coping with the demands of work amid the pandemic.*PNA