IN THE WAKE of another shocking—yet still characteristic—display of aggression and abuse of power in the country, we again find ourselves confronting the very same societal evils we have time and again sought to forget. The recent road rage incident involving Wilfredo “Willie” Gonzales, a former police officer, has exposed not only an individual’s unabated brutality, but it also revealed a deeply ingrained culture of impunity within the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The incident is again another harrowing testament to the unchecked power that some within the PNP have come to believe that they wield. In a viral video that made the rounds last August 27, a bald man, identified as one “Wilfredo Gonzales,” emerged from his red sedan and physically assaulted an unarmed cyclist, all while brandishing a firearm. The confrontation was captured on video last August 8 by a passerby and it spread like wildfire across social media.
The circumstances that followed the incident were equally troubling. Instead of swift and decisive action from the PNP, we witnessed an unsettling spectacle. Gonzales, a dismissed former cop with a history of grave misconduct, was even allowed to hold a press conference alongside the very authorities meant to uphold the law, exactly right beside then-Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Director PBGen. Nicolas Torre III. The PNP’s involvement in this charade, whether it was due to “media clamor” or not, as insinuated by PBGen. Torre, sends a message that the line between what is right and wrong, between justice and impunity, has blurred.
This incident cannot be viewed in isolation. It is part of a broader pattern of unacceptable behavior that has marred the PNP’s reputation. This is a culture that has festered and grown tenfold under the watch of the former President Rodrigo Duterte. From the extrajudicial killings associated with the War on Drugs, up to the recent controversies involving teenagers being killed by police, the PNP has been plagued by a disturbing lack of accountability. Under Duterte’s leadership, a culture of impunity has thrived, eroding trust in the very institution that was meant to uphold the rule of law in this country.
Yet the nightmare for the PNP did not stop there. It was reported last August 31 that the Chief of the Mandaluyong City Police Station, PCol. Cesar Gerente was dismissed from his post after having tested positive in a surprise random drug test the week before. It was an astonishing display of sheer incompetence and tomfoolery that has further diminished the PNP’s “moral ascendancy” to take on the “War on Drugs” that they themselves cannot seem to squash from within.
It is against this backdrop that we must look towards the future and demand meaningful change. For far too often, we have allowed these types of incidents to ignite national rage to the max, only to see it subside after a few weeks. Moving forward, we all should call upon President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to break free from the shadows of his father’s legacy. The specter of unabated state-sponsored violence, a hallmark of his father’s regime, must not haunt our nation any longer.
Marcos Jr. has the opportunity to step up and to shake things up at this point. His hollow digs at the previous administration’s “abuses” will make no difference whatsoever if no action is taken to bring it to reality. Meaningful PNP reform cannot be achieved through mere public relations projects or empty promises. Serious attempts at reform will require a sincere commitment to dismantling the culture of impunity that has been festering for decades and holding those who abuse their power accountable. We must demand more from our leaders, and we must insist on a police force that stands for justice, not impunity. The time for unceasing appeasement has passed, and the time for meaningful reform is now. We deserve nothing less.