Hours ago, videos circulated online wherein a Philippine National Police (PNP) vehicle ran over some protesters—something that should not happen under any circumstance.
I’m no expert, but I think people expect their officials to handle such an incident with care and speed. How PNP officials handled the whole thing, however, leaves much to be desired.
Subsequent news reports (and the accompanying outrage in various Facebook pages) about PNP and the event don’t help the organization any.
How The Event Transpired
According to the news, groups of people rallied at the US Embassy in Manila to protest American intervention in the Philippines. Reports said protesters were going to conclude their rally when police began to disperse the former.
Expectedly, a clash occurred. Police set off tear gas, while some protesters threw paint bombs and rocks. And then the unthinkable occurred: someone drove a police vehicle that ran over some people.
Bad enough the driver controlled the vehicle to go backwards when it overran some individuals, but the person then drove it forward that went over other people who tried to block it.
It’s a miracle that nobody died. Still, the fact that someone drove over scores of people was enough to draw outrage.
How A PNP Official Responded
Just when the thing couldn’t get any bad, looks like it got a bit worse if going by news stories as they publish.
One Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) story caught my eye: a PNP official responded to PDI via text message. Part of the person’s response?
“Hindi naman sila sinagasaan (They weren’t run over). The rallyists were trying to flip over the patrol car.”
Um, didn’t look that way from the number of videos about the incident.
If the comments in media outfits’ and individuals’ social media accounts are any indication, plenty of people raged about the event. I won’t be surprised if that rage grew when the police official’s response came out in the news.
(Some media professionals I learned from have a term for that police official’s response: tone-deaf, meaning that person doesn’t understand—much more appreciate—other people’s concerns or difficulties.)
How the PNP Can Respond
Or maybe should, though that’s up to the PNP.
Granted, the PNP has no easy way to handle this kind of situation. What I’m about to suggest is also easier said than done, even though I base much of that on my work experiences and lessons I learned from other people in other disciplines.
The first thing PNP can do is to acknowledge the incident despite how it happened. In my experience of doing customer service for some online companies, people want someone to acknowledge their problems or incidents that affected them. They want to be acknowledged, to be heard, to know that someone actually cares somehow despite how they feel.
The police here can acknowledge the fact that someone (one of theirs as other videos later showed) drove the vehicle that injured people, rather than maybe deny especially when “evidence” shows otherwise.
I understand some people won’t be too happy when I say this, but acknowledging an incident doesn’t always equate to admitting fault. An idea here is one should let others know he or she is at least aware of the situation.
But yes, one ought to acknowledge his or her fault and even apologize for it if ever—which looks like a must in this case.
The next thing for police is, of course, to do something that can regain the public’s trust. Again, easier said than done especially when the public seems cynical towards the government. Who can blame them?
What I suggest next is perhaps a bold one for PNP: announce a temporary suspension of sorts for those involved (or put whoever in “floating status” as our police officials usually say for such a situation.)
Two reasons for the above suggestion. One, that action shows the police know what they’re doing while acknowledging the public’s sentiment. Two, it displays some degree of accountability that people expect of those in government.
And of course, police should investigate this incident and ensure the victims receive care.
I doubt I need to suggest this to PNP, but they ought to provide a full report in public at the soonest possible time. The sooner they complete their investigation, the sooner they can report about it, the sooner they can (re)assure the public can trust the organization despite what happened.
On that note, I also suggest PNP hire a communications or media professional if they haven’t. Preferably, a person or a group specializing in crisis communications and management. Looks like they need one, though hopefully not for “spinning” an event unfavorable to them.
How To Bring All This Together
PNP, or pretty much any organization for that matter, has lots of lessons any of them can take from this latest crisis.
Especially when a crisis occurs that has a material effect on people, an organization should acknowledge the situation. Then, that organization should apologize especially if an investigation shows the former has some responsibility. Last but not least is to act on the situation that shows one acknowledges it and does something about it, whatever that is.
Other news reports show the President—despite being in China—is aware of the situation, something the police can (or should?) handle without any prompt from higher-up.
Again, I acknowledge that PNP here has no easy solution for this incident. If history is any indication, however, the organization is no stranger to such a thing.
Update: National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) relieves nine officers involved in the incident.