N. Vizcaya cops rue lack of health care
CAMP SATURNINO DUMLAO, Nueva Vizcaya–Members of the Philippine National Police here are lamenting the alleged lack of basic health services for enlisted personnel, which they said, have affected their effective as law enforcers.
The police officers, who asked not to be named for ethical reasons, called on the PNP leadership to improve the organization’s health care program, following findings that a large number of them were considered physically unfit for the job.
They expressed dismay that while rank-and-file policemen have to be content with “dismal” health services in the countryside, their top-ranking officials “wade in millions-worth of perks”.
The policemen aired their sentiment following Thursday’s Senate appearance of PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Jesus Versoza, where, under questioning by senators, he fumbled in explaining the purpose for which the P6.9 million was given to retired Police Dir. Eliseo Dela Paz, erstwhile PNP director for comptrollership.
“The conflicting statements of the PNP brass on how this large amount of PNP money could have landed in the custody of General Dela Paz and his company are quite difficult to stomach. It somehow tells us how easy it is for those in the leadership to sneak out millions, while funds for the basic needs of policemen are hard to come by,” said an officer.
The Senate revelation came barely two days after the burial of Supt. Dionisio De Guzman, deputy provincial director, who died of cardiac arrest Oct. 14.
De Guzman suffered a seizure–his third–while on his way to the police provincial office in Bayombong town to report to Danguilan. He had gone home to Barangay Calitlitan in Aritao town, about 40 km from the PNP provincial headquarters here to take a rest, his colleagues said.
“He felt safer at home with his family because of the conditions we have here (at the provincial headquarters). A decent clinic that could have closely monitored his condition may have prevented such a stroke, and his death,” the officer said.
The officers expressed concern that the health of many police officers is deteriorating because they have poor access to basic health services, such as a stay-in physician, common medicines and medical equipment.
“Many officers, even chiefs of police, were disqualified to take the regular physical fitness test because of the risks of strenuous physical activities to their failing health,” said a PNP officer.
Because of the shortage of funds, even some lower-ranking officers are “forced” to bite the “jueteng” payola dangled by gambling lords, even just to shoulder “housekeeping” expenses at police stations, another officer said.
“It is quite embarrassing to admit, but the image of the PNP as the primary law enforcement agency has been greatly tarnished because, as it is now publicly known, policemen themselves are tolerating the operations of ‘jueteng’ and other illegal activities because of the apparent complicity in the PNP leadership,” he said.
But while Senior Supt. Pedro Danguilan, acting provincial director, acknowledged the importance of a functional health care system for the police force and that the PNP lacked funds for it, he declined to put the blame on the supposed improper setting of priorities by the PNP leadership.
“It is also unfair to assume that (the millions given as benefits to PNP brass) is to be blamed for this situation because to truth of the matter is that the bulk of funds allocated to the PNP goes to policemen’s salaries and their benefits and there is not much that can be used for programs like that for health,” he said.
At present, only a dental staff and a medical aide are assigned to the province’s police health unit, because the stay-in doctor had been recalled and assigned to the Isabela police.
He said the entire police organization of Nueva Vizcaya remain loyal to the present leadership despite the recent controversy, citing a manifesto that is being circulated among police officers here expressing their support for their embattled PNP chief.