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Integrity in Action: The Man 'Who Walks the Talk'

Magalong has consistently demonstrated integrity and dedication to good governance seen in his police service and handling of the Mamasapano incident.

After the recent launch of the "Mayors for Good Governance Movement" (M4GG) in Quezon City last August 24, there have been significant scrutiny trends from online platforms and mainstream media. Some speculate, echoing Gary Ador Dionisio's sentiments, that this might be a strategic move by Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong to ascend to a higher political office. However, if these speculations hold truth, the broader perspective suggests it might benefit the nation. The Philippines would benefit significantly from a leader with unwavering integrity, especially during these crucial nation-building times. Connecting back, it holds another of Dionisio's sentiments, evoking the image of "patches of green on a bleak island," which symbolizes instances of hope amidst dire situations. This mirrors Magalong's outlook, emphasizing optimism even in tough times, or likely positioning him as a beacon of hope.

If you're unfamiliar with the man, you might inadvertently let your preconceived biases shape your views on the movement. However, those who have closely interacted or worked with or under his leadership can affirm his genuine commitment to good governance. He transcends the usual political rhetoric; his words translate into tangible actions, reinforcing his credibility.

This blog explores the man's conviction and the authenticity of the movement's genuineness reflected through Mayor Magalong's policing journey from the 1986 EDSA revolution to the war on drugs era. It offers a personal viewpoint on his patriotism, dedication, expertise, trustworthiness, transparency, and values, providing detailed character insight beyond Wikipedia's general overview of him. It begins with the author's viewpoint, retracing events from the 1986 EDSA Revolution to the 2013 Abra Peacekeeping and Peacemaking, progressing to the 2015 Mamasapano incident, and culminating with the 2019 Selective Cleansing issue in the PNP.

Personal Overview

Starting from the writer's perspective, Magalong's role in the M4GG reflects his profound character, honed throughout his policing career, with co-conveners regarding him as the initiative's "heart and soul". This viewpoint is informed by firsthand experiences and insights gathered during his concluding years in the police service. Serving in prominent positions such as the Director of Police Regional Office Cordillera, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) within the Philippine National Police, his steadfast dedication to innovation, transparency, transformation, and upholding the rule of law is unmatched.

As police regional director, he introduced technology-driven innovation to enhance police stations' credibility and efficacy, incorporating GIS into the police blotter for real-time crime mapping and analysis, famously known as the Q-GIS or quantum GIS. This tool aided the police chiefs in making informed decisions based on timely evidence and trends, centralizing data in the e-blotter system. The core goal was to foster transparency in community crime data, challenging the past practice where police chiefs might underreport crimes to avoid criticism and relief. Likewise, this transparency aims to equip other governmental entities, especially LGUs, with a more straightforward ground reality, enabling them to help the police address pressing criminal trends more effectively. This innovative approach laid the foundation for the national adoption of the CIRAS (Crime Information, Reporting and Analysis System) by DIDM.

Magalong is widely recognized within the PNP for championing its transformation. His deep-rooted desire to use technology for reforming police stations and shaping young police chiefs into trustworthy figures is evident. A hallmark of his leadership is his emphasis on transparency, particularly in accurate crime data reporting, discouraging the concealment or distortion of figures. This commitment has historically led to the removal of police chiefs for data concealment. For Magalong, integrating technology in crime data represents good governance, his tangible commitment to the rule of law, and actionable strategies reflecting his ideals.

His leadership, aligned with current national goals, distinguishes him. His core principles and long-term vision mirror the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, emphasizing that good governance and the rule of law are closely linked. Chapter 7 underscores that good governance fosters transparency, efficiency, and the rule of law, which in turn boosts political maturity and aids in reducing poverty and promoting growth.

1986 EDSA Revolution

During the People Power Revolution in 1986, like in EDSA, Baguio City experienced a peaceful struggle predominantly centered at the Baguio Cathedral. The revolution saw Filipinos adopting a non-violent approach, using religious symbols instead of weapons. Within this context, Lieutenant Benjamin Magalong, leading the Philippine Constabulary detachment in Buguias, Benguet, became the first officer to defect during the uprising in the Cordillera region.

His decision was influenced by the perceived absence of genuine leadership in the police and military. Magalong, risking court-martial due to his rank, made a discreet travel to Baguio, joining forces with the local population at the cathedral grounds. Displaying resolute leadership, he also took the bold step of detaining a Philippine Constabulary Regional Director amid the revolution's unfolding. For his brave and principled stand during these events, Magalong emerged as a revered figure in Baguio city, remembered as one of the local heroes of the revolution. His actions during this pivotal time reflect his unwavering commitment to good governance and set the stage for his later career and endeavors.

2013 Abra Local Peacekeeping and Peacemaking

In an environment like Abra, historically tainted with election-related violence stemming from deep-seated political rivalries, ensuring peaceful elections is a crucible test of any leader's competence in mediation and conflict resolution. The then PCSUPT Benjamin Magalong's assignment in this challenging backdrop speaks volumes about his credibility in these areas.

To start with, Magalong's strategy to deploy police forces effectively was not just about ensuring a visible security presence; it was also a message of assurance to the local populace and a deterrent to potential disruptors. This decision demonstrates his analytical approach to understanding the nuances of ground realities and creating a tactical response accordingly.

However, his efforts went beyond conventional law enforcement methods. One of the most critical facets of Magalong's leadership in Abra was his ability to maintain open communication lines with different political factions. This was a masterstroke in proactive diplomacy in a province where rivalries could quickly escalate into violence. By establishing dialogues, Magalong showcased an essential quality for any mediator: the ability to listen, understand, and then act. It is a testament to his credibility that he could bridge gaps and create an environment where differing factions felt their concerns were heard and addressed.

Moreover, Magalong's implementation of proactive measures to preempt violence reflects his foresight and capability to anticipate potential issues and address them head-on. Instead of merely reacting to situations, he took the initiative to prevent conflicts from arising in the first place. Magalong's leadership in Abra wasn't just about managing a task; it reflected his deep-seated mediation and conflict resolution skills. He approached the challenge not as a mere enforcer but as a communicator, mediator, and strategic planner. This multifaceted approach solidified his credibility in handling sensitive and complex situations with unmatched tact and efficiency.

2015 Mamasapano Incident

The Mamasapano incident stands as a poignant reminder of the unpredictable perils of service and the need for accountability in the national leadership positions. When 44 brave souls of the PNP's Special Action Force tragically perished, the nation was gripped by grief and sought answers. The gravity of this incident required an investigator who could navigate the complex maze of facts, emotions, and implications, and Police Director Benjamin B. Magalong then was chosen for this very reason.

Magalong's appointment to chair the Board of Inquiry into the Mamasapano incident wasn't just based on his investigative skills, though they are commendable. More importantly, it was his unwavering principles that set him apart. He is a figure who, throughout his career, has demonstrated a commitment to truth, justice, and a moral compass that remains unaffected by external pressures. Magalong's reputation for unbiased and ethical conduct made him the ideal candidate for an investigation that would undoubtedly be riddled with sensitive details and potential backlashes.

Guided by Magalong's leadership, the Board of Inquiry sought to determine responsibility and unravel the intricate series of decisions that culminated in the tragedy. Magalong ensured thoroughness in the investigation by advocating for a comprehensive and unbiased review. Although the board's findings held former President Benigno Aquino III and other vital officers accountable, potentially endangering Magalong's career prospects as a frontrunner for the PNP Chief role, he remained resolute, resisting pressures to alter or soften the conclusions.

The recommendations from the board under his leadership were preventive and corrective. Magalong understood that for healing to occur and for trust to be rebuilt, there needed to be measures to prevent such incidents in the future while also holding those responsible accountable. This balanced approach was rooted in his core principles: justice should be served, lessons should be learned, and measures should be taken to ensure the safety of those who serve the nation.

Magalong's role in the investigation of the Mamasapano incident transcends the mechanics of inquiry. It is symbolic of his principles in action: a relentless pursuit of the truth, a commitment to justice, and an unwavering dedication to improving the systems that protect both the guardians and the guarded of the Philippine nation.

2019 ISSUE: Selective Cleansing in the PNP

In 2019, Mayor Magalong has consistently expressed deep reservations about what he terms selective cleansing within the Philippine National Police (PNP). During a significant Senate hearing, Magalong took the opportunity to shed light on the disturbing trend of "ninja cops." These are police officers who, rather than safeguarding the confiscated narcotics, engage in the illicit activity of reselling them back onto the streets.

One particularly troubling incident that Magalong pointed out took place in Mexico, Pampanga, in 2013. This case was not a minor infringement; it implicated 13 policemen who "recycled" drugs they had previously seized in contravention of their duty. Given the severity of their misconduct, what raises eyebrows is the relatively lenient punitive action these officers faced. Instead of facing the stringent penalty of dismissal from service, they were merely demoted. Even more unsettling, many of these officers later secured prominent roles within the PNP hierarchy. Magalong's pointed criticisms are not just words of rebuke but are an urgent summons for a complete overhaul of the PNP's practices. He believes that before the PNP can take on grander law enforcement campaigns, it must first introspect and rectify its internal shortcomings. Magalong's relentless pursuit to expose such malpractices is a testament to his unwavering dedication to developing an effective PNP that epitomizes accountability and transparency.

Conclusion

Throughout his public service career, Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong has consistently demonstrated visionary leadership rooted in innovation, transparency, humility, and the rule of law principles. His initiatives, such as QGIS and CIRAS, have advanced technology-driven reforms within the PNP, establishing transparency in crime reporting and challenging prior misconceptions. Early in his career, a notable moment in his journey was during the 1986 People Power Revolution in Baguio City, where he stood firm against prevailing norms, earning recognition as a local hero. This valor emphasized his commitment to good governance and hinted at his future contributions to public service. Moving forward, in Abra, amidst intense political rivalries, Magalong's strategic measures and open dialogues further validated his adeptness in mediation and conflict resolution. Similarly, his role following the Mamasapano incident showcased his dedication to truth and justice, where he pursued accountability while introducing systemic improvements to protect the nation's guardians. Magalong's critique of the "ninja cops" phenomenon and the PNP's lax internal procedures reveals his unwavering commitment to creating a transparent and accountable police force.

Collectively, these episodes underline Magalong's commitment to fostering a transparent and efficient police system in the Philippines. Now, by championing the M4GG, he lays the groundwork for governance that targets the elimination of corruption in the country's political arena.


This article contains personal views of the author. It does not represent the views of the Philippine National Police or any other part of the Philippine government.


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