THE story we ran last year, about most Filipino cops being poor shooters, falling below the Philippine National Police’s “marksman grade,” has been confirmed once more in a Philippine Star story that came out yesterday.

The story, by Star’s Cecille Suerte, headlined “Most cops can’t shoot straight – PNP,” has Deputy PNP Director General (for administration) Benjamin Belarmindo admitting that most of our cops fare so badly in markmanship tests that they are called “bolo men.”

They are such poor shots that, Belarmino said, they shouldn’t be issued firearms but only bolos. The bolo is the straight machete that the revolutionary hero, Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio, is shown brandishing in monuments and paintings.

The Star report quotes Mr. Belarmino explaining the shooting-ability grades in the PNP. “A shooter is rated based on his speed and his capability to hit the target.

After marksman, the next higher rate is sharp shooter, then expert, followed by master and grand master,” he said.

Apparently, since we published our story a year ago, there has been little improvement in our policemen’s shooting skills. That is why the PNP continues to run a program to improve the policemen’s markmanship.

Mr. Belarmino of course paid tribute to the cops who belong to the SWAT (the Special Weapon and Tactics) and SAF (Special Action Force) units.

The trouble is the police brass doesn’t seem inclined to waste the talents of these experts on such events as the August 23, 2010 hostage-taking crisis in front of the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta.

A drummed-out policeman, who wanted to be reinstated, hijacked a busload of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong.

If the SAF men had been mobilized, according to the police higher-ups, the tragedy would not have happened—at least not in the ridiculous way it did.

The PNP men who finally tried to storm the tourist bus apparently shot some of the hostages. For their bodies were found to have bullets other than those of the hostage-taker, who was finally done in by a policeman sniper.

We agree with Mr. Belarmino that, as long as policemen are issued firearms, their markmanship training should be made more effective. For our cops are not infrequently engaged in shootouts with criminals.

PNP men involved in shootouts often-enough hit civilians. This is most likely because they can’t shoot straight.

Although some dark-minded observers have suggested that hitting civilians could have the motive of eliminating witnesses to the cops’ incompetence or, worse, involvement with the gangs they have shootouts with.

Only last Friday Manila’s Mayor Alfredo Lim—himself a former policeman and head of the PNP — issued a “shoot-to-kill” order against the suspects, one of whom is a policeman.

These baddies had last week shot three Chinese businessmen along a Binondo street.

There were many shootouts involving policemen in 2011. How many civilian casualties were there?

Some real policemen were used as extras in the shooting last week of “The Bourne Legacy.” But, even this happy activity, was soured up by a drunken cop who fired his pistol apparently to impress the beautiful actresses.

Cost-cutting measure: make cops take up arnis

It’s not cheap turning poor shots into marksmen. Mr. Belarmino said an original full-metal jacket bullet costs P25 but a reloaded shell only costs P6. The latter goes with the risk of being a dud, though.

Here’s a cost-cutting idea.

For centuries, the British bobby — the policeman on the beat — was not equipped with a firearm. All he had was his nightstick. And he was hailed as the most effective protector of the people and neighborhoods in Christendom.

It was not till after the terrorist actions in Northern Ireland made the British government allow bobbies there to have guns while they were on duty.

In the rest of the UK policemen patrolling their beats only began to carry guns after 9/11 and after terrorists began hitting British targets.

The Philippines is the birthplace of the martial art of arnis. Arnis uses rattan sticks as the primary weapon. It is officially our country’s national martial art and sport—by the virtue of Republic Act 9850.

Many police, other security forces and military units around the world are already employing arnis. The arnis stick in the hands of an expert is a potent weapon against violent perpetrators. It is also effective in jungle fighting.

The business end of an arnis stick wielded by an expert could travel at 90 miles an hour.

Arnis adepts can deliver multiple hits in a second and can use the shaft of his weapon to apply a painful joint lock as well as to throw down or strangle an opponent.

The stick can extend the user’s combat range by nearly three feet in every direction.

Arnis is already included by some police schools as part of the basic training of policemen here. But always with the proviso that the rattan stick is but an auxiliary to the firearm.

Most policemen refuse to learn arnis because it requires more physical effort to become skilful in it than learning how to fire a gun.

But these are probably the same cops who can’t shoot straight because they have no discipline. Well, arnis training will not only teach them more discipline, it will also make them more physically and mentally fit.

The government is bound to save a lot of money if it chooses to make the rattan stick the primary weapons of the majority of policemen instead of a gun.

The cost of the cheapest semi-automatic handgun ranges from P12,000 to P15,000. In sharp contrast, a single arnis rattan stick costs P25 to P30. Firearms training also requires many rounds of ammunitions and a firing range.

In comparison, one can book an arnis instructor for a two-day crash course for P5,000 and training can be held at a parking lot or a basketball gym.

Don’t forget, the arnis stick costs less than a bolo, much much less than a round of bullets. And it would not hurt rubber-necking civilians.

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