Manila, July 22, 2003 By Alejandro R. Roces (Star) Yesterday, the search for Al-Ghozi was the headline story of all the leading papers. There is no doubt that the future of this case will determine the fate of many officers in the Philippine National Police. To this day, no one has given a credible explanation as to just how Al-Ghozi could have escaped if there had been no collusion with his captors. The headline stories cover different aspects of Al-Ghozi’s escape. One headline said that one of the ranking police intelligence officers being investigated on the case failed in the polygraph test. When asked if there had been collusion and if money had exchanged hands, Supt. Fritz Galaban’s blood pressure and pulse rate changed. It also said that between 10 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday – the time of Al-Ghozi supposedly escaped, Galaban left the premises twice.

Another newspaper headlined that 63 PNP teams composed of 5,000 policemen have been deployed nationwide to track down Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. If and when Al-Ghozi is captured, you can almost be dead certain he won’t be alive. High-ranking officers in the PNP cannot allow Al-Ghozi to testify so they want him dead – not alive.

President Arroyo has doubled the reward for the capture of Al-Ghozi from P5-million to P10-million.

The way we see it, Al-Ghozi did not simply escape and vanish. The same people who made his escape possible know where he is hiding and are doing their utmost that he makes good his escape. The truth is that since martial law, the Philippine National Police ceased to be the protectors of the people. Instead, they became the oppressors and sad to say that image of the police has survived to this day.

A front-page story also announced that PNP engineers are now working 24 hours a day to rebuild an abandoned custodial center so it will be able to house high-profile – and possibly dangerous – prisoners. The problem is not the prison. In the case of Al-Ghozi, they have even tried to say that the lock on his cell was defective. The problem is the guards. There is no doubt in the public’s mind that Al-Ghozi bribed his way to freedom.

We have one of the most corrupt police forces in the world. Because of Al-Ghozi’s escape, the United States embassy had to issue another reminder to its tourists about the risks they are taking if they insist in visiting the Philippines. The truth is that many of our policemen running our prisons should be in prison. The Al-Ghozi escape has just served to make this fact patent. The dividing line between criminals and the police is very thin indeed.

Yes, Al-Ghozi has escaped. But even outside, we feel certain that he is enjoying police protection. But he should not feel very secure. For they may decide to kill him in order to silence him forever. That is a strong possibility.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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