AT THE center of crime is a brotherhood of hard men, who fight for whatever  justice is possible on this deadly world.

They’re called cops, whose battle for a little law and order is joined by a vivid cast of supporting players—biased prosecutors, prejudiced judges, vicious bureaucracy, meddlesome politicians, hapless victims. reluctant accusers, the bungling media (if I may add)—all locked up between crime and punishment.

We covered Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim when he was the District Commander of Quezon City. As  such, he is in direct command of every uniformed men who patrolled in police cars or on foot, which  makes him technically responsible for the incompetence or outright  criminality of any of them. So, there are many ways he could be nailed.

These sworn souls are entrusted with the job of providing public safety, plus the control and reduction of criminality all over the city. Their paychecks came from the national budget. But after six beers, every cop is pretty much convinced he worked for the Lord Himself. Even then, I have already asked him some nagging questions like, “How do cops investigate fellow officers?” “How are they trained for the adversarial role?” His answer, “a sworn member of the department should be unaffected by station house loyalty or by the brotherhood itself,  his allegiance is with the system, the department.”

We asked him, in today’s standards, what is a good cop, General?

“A good cop begins as a good rookie, a good soldier. Here, competence goes beyond the usual yard stick, all the  things in the world means nothing if you can’t read the sheets. The good cop believes that when you do your job right, you will always arrive at the truth.”

General Lim, can you  amplify that, Sir.

“The good cop should learn what it means to do surveillance, how to use, not be used as an informant, when to throw as much street corner psychology as he can, and to write coherent police records and fill his head with enough knowledge of existing police information. Yet given all that, he should  have something more that guarantees balance in the worst storms of a policeman’s career, an acceptance that every time there’s an unsolved case, a part of him dies.”

Amid his stern pieties and blunt rhetorics of his style, anyone familiar with police tribal rites will agree that on human basis and generally speaking, Brigadier General Alfredo S. Lim interests quite a lot up to now.

Picture him from across the room. You will recognize him through the years, General with two stars, did not enter nor advance. He progressed with a sangfroid, so deliberate and disturbing—provocative target of photographers, flash bulbs and reporters comments. You can almost imagine the cop among cops. Years back, he blustered, preached, cajoled. Mercurial, brilliant, incomparable by weariness beside him, Dirty Harry is a flavorless character.

Gen. Lim continues to be a source of constant conjecture appraisal and admiration. He is an uncurable charmer, quick of speech, rapid movement, looking down at the back of cops hands as though inspecting their finger nails, as he takes credit and responsibility for his trusted men. Perhaps he was trying to exult his men, or express displeasures over some of them. Perhaps then, he was trying to do both. His words  were studied, as calculations were made, especially when heads will roll. He glides through clusters of bodies that are dangerous and perpetually  angry—aloof,  casual, immaculate. Amid any defiance and rumpled chaos.

The General is a cautious survivor of the forces rugged decades, 38 years of service whose brand of discipline is neat, almost surgical, no blood on the floor—an imposed leave of absences, on the spot disarming or suspension of a culprit. He would relieve and bundle off crooked cops, even on Christmas. Naughty punks are given a new lease with stern admonition.

He is a handsome man, whose  eyes disappeared everytime he smiled, in a vigorous, wholesome way with  brown eyes that missed nothing—an astute lawyer who rests his case with cultivated blend of elegance and earthiness, typical of many lawyer cops.

He is a product of a system in which manhood is tightly defined and continuously challenged.  For him “a police force should resemble an organism of well behaved cells, incapable of violating their programming, functioning happily at separate and specialized tasks with initiative as a prized characteristic.”

I recall his chronic obsession for “squeaky clean”  policemen  at the mobile  and traffic division, they being the mouthpiece of the “force.”

Powder dry he guns for a star, and got two.

My final query: Sir, what do you want me to wish you?

He simply held out his hand in a firm and warm handshake, and gave me a drop dead  gorgeous smile bright enough to weaken one’s knees.

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