The Chain of Command Phenomenon

Chain of Command I do not fully subscribe to the opinion of Justice Seretary Leila De Lima when she said that “[T]he PNP is not a military organization subject to the chain of command concept.” In my mind she said this just to absolve the President of any blame (who cannot be sued anyway as a general rule). (see Chain of command doesn’t apply to PNP: De Lima). 

The Chain of Command exists in the police force though in a different manner and circumstances. The Chain of Command, in simple term, means a “Hierarchy of Command.” Who called the shots? Who gave the the orders, the instructions, the “advices”? Which subordinate received and implemented them? Who should be made accountable when there were lapses of judgment or operation? ( see Operations in the UK: The Defence Contribution to Resilience). The “…police departments exhibited the following essential characteristics: … Rigid chain of command;…” (see Rethinking Police Governance, Culture & Management).

“In all countries, the police are accountable to the line of command within the police force and also to external authorities, usually, at a minimum, the minister of the interior and/or the prime minister (who can command the police), the judiciary (whose verdicts and other orders the police have to comply with) and the legislature (which drafts laws and approves the police budget); and there is often a national human rights institution that plays a role in police oversight.” (see An Audit of Police Oversight in Africa). “A core principle of the Police command chain, for instance, is that the Police are operationally independent of Government (a position diametrically opposite to the position of the Armed Forces for whom an operation must be approved by a Defence Minister)”. (see supra)

To understand this, a line must be drawn about the concept between a State and a Government. The State embodies a group of people who occupies a fixed territory under a system of Government. On the other hand, the Government is the instrument through which the State’s will or policy is implemented. (Political Law 101) The military answers to the State and the people (see Article II, Sec. 3, 1987 Constitution). The police is part of the Government charged in keeping the peace and order (see Article XVI, Sec. 6, 1987 Constitution which is the basis of the PNP Act or RA 8551).

In a constitutional monarchy and some types of parliamentary government, there is a Head of State (the King, Queen, or President like in Russia), and a Head of Government (the Prime Minister). The former is the Commander-in-Chief of the military, while the latter is the “administrative or political caretaker” of the government to which the police agency is a part of. In the US and the Philippines, the Head of State and Head of Government are both conferred upon one person – The President.

As such, the President is in the hierarchy of command in both situations. As such, he is accountable to the people when he reneged on his job. He is only cut off from the “chain” on “operational matters.” Thus, he cannot be not made accountable on any lapse in the day to day operations of the military and police. Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states that “the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of ALL armed forces of the Philippines.” The word “ALL” encompasses every armed component.

The police force, although civilian in character, belong to the quiddity of an armed force. Compare this to Article XVI: “Section 4. THE Armed Forces of the Philippines shall be composed of a citizen armed force which shall undergo military training and serve as may be provided by law. It shall keep a regular force necessary for the security of the State.” “Section 5. (1) All members of THE armed forces shall take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution.” Clearly, the terms, “ALL ARMED FORCES” and “THE ARMED FORCES” are distinct from each other. The first refers to both the military and the polic.

The second, exclusively points to the military, “the” AFP. In the context of the #mamasapano incident, the issue is an extraordinary one which involves national security issues and international implications. This is why President Noynoy Aquino was informed, briefed and sought of advice or asked for a “go signal” for “Oplan Exodus” (but he is not admitting or denying it). And the giving of advice by suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima to former PNP-SAF Head Getulio Napeñas to inform later PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and DILG Secretary is tantamount to an acknowledgment that the chain of command exists in the Philippine National Police. Or else, why bother to include them after the initial execution of the operation (although the two acknowledged that they already knew about the mission to take the terrorists, they do not know that it was executed).

As such, he has already dipped his hands into the situation and whatever advice or order he gives will be followed by his subordinates. And even if he said, “Bahala na kayo,” that is still seen as an unequivocal “advice,” instruction or order.

Were his acts before and after the fact considered a betrayal of public trust? That is up to the proper institution to interpret and to the judge.

Atty. Raymond Fortun, a legal luminary, has this to say in his Facebook account:  



Congressman Roilo Golez’s collection of Command Responsibility in the Philippine National Police

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