What gives with VIP bodyguards? Inquirer.net

What gives with VIP bodyguards? Featured

THE past three weeks saw the Tulfo brothers’ public roasting over the uncouth and abusive language of their sibling Erwin toward a member of the Duterte cabinet. This seems to be the trademark of the Tulfos, perhaps as a crass display of their alpha attributes, a sense of untouchability due to their political connections and a not so subtle signal that they are a power syndicate themselves — as indeed they may well be as they have acquired a substantial following in broadcast and print media. The siblings have managed to parlay their occupation helping ordinary folk find their voice against callous and unmindful government bureaucrats — a commendable feat. But this time they overdid it when they targeted Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, a bemedaled ex-military general and a hero of the Marawi siege. This generated an ugly firestorm of reaction from the public and an unexpected rage from PMA Cavaliers, a much bigger power bloc whose tentacles encompass the military and police. This prompted a harsh response from top police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde who stripped the brothers of their security details.

Former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd plunged into the fray, declaring, “I personally know these Tulfo brothers, including Ramon and Erwin…I believe that they are apologizing because they never expected the gravity of the backlash, coming as it did from the military and the police, the sector that the Tulfos could not afford to fight at this time. It is my opinion, judging from my own experiences, if they would be off the hook without them learning their lesson, they would be back to their entitled and arrogant ways in no time at all!” (KatrinaHallare – @KHallareINQ, inquirer.net/ 10:14 p.m. June 07, 2019.)

This column will not exacerbate further this disgraceful situation except to examine a more intriguing topic behind this incident allowing us a peek at the unholy alliance between the entitled members of the media and the police.

The question begging an answer is what government policies cover the privilege of granting security details or bodyguards to elected and appointed officials, bureaucrats, VIPs and those private individuals who consider themselves important. Or worse, the likes of a daughter of convicted drug lord and herself a drug pusher Diana Yu Uy, assigned a two-man police detail for several years.

Ordinary citizens must have witnessed convoys of SUVs in heavy traffic with car “wang-wang,” restaurants or even private parties and public events where VIPs are easily spotted by the number of bodyguards hovering over them with bulging hidden handguns protruding from under their short barong and their ubiquitous earphones connected to miniaturized walkie-talkies; conveying to observers images of collective self-importance. Are these hundreds of local government officials, senators, congressmen and bureaucrats entitled to freebies to secure them against perceived or real threats. Is the ordinary Filipino compelled to pay for their security. Can they not pay for their own safety with their private or stolen funds?

According to Gen. Filmore Escobal, chief of the Police Security and Protection Group (PNP-PSPG), these individuals are typically allowed at least two personnel from the PSPG. Two is minimum as both are assigned in two shifts. If they want more police personnel, they must submit a request letter to the PNP and get approval from PRRD himself. Private individuals get to be assigned police security too by merely applying and requesting for one. Such request is assessed and vetted and when warranted, the requesting individual is granted two policemen, courtesy of the taxpayer.

The Deegong is known to frown on spending public funds for private purposes as the margin between corruption and rectitude is a thin one. And DU30 has declared that even “a whiff of corruption” would not save a bureaucrat. The use of public funds, as in the case of police salaries for private security for the Tulfo brothers and one of their spouses may in fact be anomalous.

The citizenry will understand and accept legitimate protection for the country’s highest officialdom paid for by the people’s money as they are natural magnet for threats. For this purpose, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_Security_Group – cite_note-2 was created and tasked with providing protection to Philippine presidents, vice presidents and their immediate families, even when on domestic and overseas trips.

This tradition of creating an elite group from the armed forces or police of countries dates back to the ancient Greek kingdom of Sparta where 300 Hoplites (the famous 300 Spartans) were the vanguards of its fighting force and also for the protection of the king. In 27 BCE Caesar Augustus of Rome created the Praetorian Guard, culled from the roman legions. Even Hitler had to install the Schutzstaffel, the infamous SS.

In France, every French boy would be familiar with the Musketeers of the Household of Louis 14th, King of France made famous in Alexander Dumas’ novels. The membership of this prestigious King’s Guard was reserved for noblemen. In my youth, we were familiar with the characters of Porthos, Athos, Aramis and their leader Comte d’Artagnan.

In the holy city of the Vatican, they have the volunteer Papal Swiss Guards from Switzerland founded in 1506 by Pope Julius 2nd solely for the protection of the popes. Originally these were mercenaries farmed out to countries in Europe able to pay their costs. Currently, the 100 Swiss guards and recruits must be Catholic, single and between 19 to 30 years old.

The US Secret Service under the Department of Homeland Security is tasked not only to protect the US president, vice president and their families but also all living former presidents, their spouses and children under 16 years old. They have an added mission of “safeguarding the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States.” The US also has private guns/bodyguards for hire called the Blackwater Group. They recruit from among retired former Navy SEAL, Green Beret and other superbly trained US select units. They are farmed out to high net worth individuals and even back to the US government.

A model we can emulate is the Israeli system that recruits only from elite units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Secret Service (ISS) to guard high government officials. These highly prized professionals are in demand to protect international high-profile clients and the “beautiful people” — actors, entertainers and oligarchs. And like the US Blackwater, these are private businesses.

These examples of worldwide elite groups of highly trained bodyguards have for their basic purpose the protection of their presidents, vice presidents, premiers and their families. They later hire themselves out to protect others.

In the Philippines, this is the job of the PSG. But the police was created to protect all its citizens — not individual persons as bodyguards. It’s high time that our government and leadership define the specifics and their role as regards their job as the country’s law enforcers. The Tulfo incident opened the eyes of many Filipinos that the role of the police must not be perverted to serve those who consider themselves as VIPs, or simply people possessing a delusion of self-importance. In this, their arrogance and subsequent humiliation may have served a purpose.000
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