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Ai-Ai Has Right to a Bodyguard But…

Showbiz personality Ai-Ai De las Alas is in the limelight with reports of her security being provided by members of the Philippine National Police. A question arises not from legality but on the acceptability of De las Alas having police escorts as bodyguards.

It all started when De las Alas had a legal spat with her husband Jed Salang. The two were married only last April 2013 but broke up after one month. De las Alas was emotional on television as she recounted physical abuse from her husband. She eventually filed a charges against her husband on the grounds of violations of RA9262 or Violence Against Women and their Children Law.

The issue even dragged President Aquino when it was alleged that the president intervened in her case and provided bodyguards from the Presidential Security Group. De las Alas and presidential sister Kris Aquino are close friends and are from the same TV network. De las Alas eventually apologized in dragging the president’s name and clarified that her escorts were from the PNP.

Veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas wrote on her blog pointing out that De las Alas having police escorts are not illegal but is “highly improper” considering the challenges faced by an undermanned PNP.

The PNP has around more than 140,000 personnel which secures 96.7 million Filipinos. Late 2012, Interior secretary Mar Roxas said that it plans to raise the ratio to 1:500. Needs to recruit 60,000 policemen, which is difficult owing to an allowable recruitment of 6,000 and attrition rate of 3,000 per year. Police to population ratio is at 1 police personnel for every 690 Filipinos.

People can file for police protection in the PNP’s Police Security and Protection Group in which public officials, foreign dignitaries, and private individuals are given protection granted proper authorization and approval. In the case of De las Alas, obviously her request was approved owing to her celebrity status or as a publicity stunt for the PNP. She is now included in the VIPs protected by the PNP.

SecurityMatters editor-in-chief Ace Esmeralda said in Tordesillas’ article that “It’s normal for a private person or a celebrity under the impression of being under threat to pay for the expenses of his or her bodyguards or close protection officers who maybe private individuals or off duty police officers or soldiers. But it’s not proper when his bodyguards are active duty public security or safety officers who are paid by people’s taxes.”

De las Alas is a victim of domestic abuse and she deserves all the legal and security measures she needs to protect herself and her family. Her case along with those of other celebrities who have suffered abuses should be lessons to Filipinas who suffer violence at home. But for a person of her wealth and stature, is it wise for her to have her security escorts from the PNP?

We may not know the exact details of De las Alas’ security detail, but in her blog, Tordesillas compares the cost of having police escorts to a security professional. The former can cost P10,000 to P20,000 per escort per month while a private protection professional charges 30,000 per month and De las Alas might need two to secure her.

De las Alas was cited as one of the top taxpayers in previous years. Maybe it might be better for her to hire private security professionals. Despite the fact that she could afford hiring them, security professionals answer only to the client, and are solely tasked to her security detail and would be able to maintain focus. While police personnel, whether off-duty or assigned to her, may have other concerns aside from De las Alas, which includes and not limited to other assignments and direct superiors and they could be indefinitely pulled out.

Also, having bodyguards from the PNP can deprive ordinary Filipinos of police protection. A single police derailed from active duty essentially deprives 690 Filipinos of police protection. In fact, every so-called VIP who has the means to pay for private protection but opts to get police and military personnel essentially deprives Filipinos, who also pay police salaries with taxes, of protection.

In the end, De las Alas has a right to have a bodyguard but it might be better for her to hire professionals rather than get active policemen for her security detail for reasons of practicality and acceptability. This goes also to every individual at risk but can afford to hire a protection professional.