MANILA (Mabuhay) – A lawmaker wants to put an end to police authorities’ practice of naming criminal gangs after their hometown or ethnic community, saying the reputation of innocent townsfolk shouldn’t be soiled just because of the sins committed by a few.
Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal has filed House Bill 4758 prohibiting the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies from using the names of places of origin of suspects in describing crime suspects, felons, wrongdoers, offenders and other malefactors.
The measure, now pending before the House committee on public order and safety, provides for a jail time lasting from six months to six years for any police officer who is found guilty of using the names of hometowns or ethnic communities in identifying gangs.
In the bill’s explanatory note, Oaminal noted that the police like to use monikers in tagging suspects when they fail to solve a crime.
“Worst and far more unwarranted is the police predilection to identify criminals and gangsters from their suspected places of origin. Thus, we have the Ozamis Gang, the Ilonggo Gang and the Waray-Waray Gang, to name a few. Simply because the suspects have that regional diction or are friends with one or two from the area, they are dubbed as such,” he said.
Oaminal said the police authorities’ practice of naming criminal gangs after hometowns or ethnic communities not only tarnishes the reputation of the town, city or minority group, but also their residents or members.
“Imagine being tagged as the town mate or barangay mate of a certain criminal. Certainly, there can be far more congruous ways for the authorities to label felons and criminals,” he said.
Aside from using town names to identify gangs, the lawmaker noted that the police tend to name gangs based on the manner by which a crime was committed.
Some of the instances he cited was the naming of perpetrators behind the robbery of a popular jewelry store as members of “Martilyo Gang” just because they broke the shop’s glass enclosure with hammers.
“When another gem robbery wrenches were used to crush the glass container, they were swiftly appended the Wrench Gang,” Oaminal quipped. (MNS)