An incident this week portraying a display of aggressive and violent behavior by members of the City government’s Anti-Crime Task Force against a worker in a car wash establishment presents an important oversight challenge to the city administration.

A CCTV clip released by the owner of the establishment involved, showed several ACTF members striking down a car wash employee inside the establishment. The circumstances around the case have been amply reported by the media, including the side of the ACTF stating they were on patrol at the time of the incident when they were cursed by the person concerned and decided to confront him.

The head of the ACTF and concurrent information officer Richard Ligad had also stated in interviews that they will conduct a formal investigation on the case. He promised sanctions against their erring members, even as he volunteered from the outset that the ACTF members involved have committed abuse. He told Palawan News that some of his members “lost their patience, acted unbecomingly, and became aggressive and highly-emotional during the apprehension.”

While many, including netizens who have weighed in on the issue in social media, would assert that immediate administrative sanctions should be imposed on the ACTF members who were caught on video ganging up on the car wash employee, Ligad said that no punishment will be made until after they have conducted a formal investigation. He justified this by explaining that they did not want to deprive livelihood to the ACTF employees concerned.

A decisive leadership would have immediately resolved the matter based on the information available, but this has not been the case in this instance. While it is within the prerogative of the city government to handle this incident that way it has done so far, its soft-pedaling on the erring ACTF employees does not engender confidence that proper sanctions will ever be done at all. It does not help that a different narrative unrelated to the issue at hand is deliberately being raised to the public consciousness – that the car wash boys working in the establishment are abusive themselves, based on claims made by certain individuals who suddenly came out from the woodworks and got interviewed by some media.

It does not also help that there is infantile opposition at City Hall that can assert a fiscalizing role and put this matter on the centerpiece agenda of the moment, as there are important questions that needed to be asked. Central to this is the role that is played by the ACTF as a de facto police force, as the ACTF in fact arrested the person and detained him overnight within their premises.

A review and assessment of the ACTF program are in order if only to avoid similar incidents of abusive behavior in the future. The review should look into whether the action of the ACTF team on the ground followed any operational procedure or if it is indicative of a lack, or absence, of proper training. It should inquire on the qualifications and credentials of the individual members of the ACTF to exercise certain authority.

While it helps that the city government has a quick reaction capability to address emergencies the likes of natural calamities or even acts of violence, the role of maintaining peace and order centrally belongs to the police and law enforcement agencies that have the mandate, and the proper training, to perform this.

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