Police Senior Superintendent (PSSupt.) Romeo Magsalos—formidable, tall, upright in his posture, and mild-mannered—isn’t your stereotypical policeman.
Born in the province of Bukidnon, Mr. Magsalos has been serving the country for several years which is evident in the different positions he held as a policeman. He became the Chief of Police of different PNP Stations like in Candon City, Narvacan City, Marikina and Bicutan.
But what is more interesting and striking about this policeman is his soft heart for the environment. Veering away from the typical responsibilities of a policeman, he advocated an environmental campaign when he was at the Marikina PNP Station.
After Typhoon Ondoy, which caused flooding that damaged homes and saw many lost lives, Senior Superintendent Romeo Magsalos was moved to take matters in his own hands to prevent, or at least lessen, the heavy deluge in his area. “I felt we had to do something,” the policeman said.
Marikina City was one of the severely affected cities during Ondoy in 2009 (and again, during the heavy monsoon rains this week). He and the whole police station were victims of Ondoy.
In my past interview with him, he recalled the damages that this disaster has caused in the whole police station. He showed me the marks left by the flood inside the station and he narrated to me that during their rescue operation, all he could see were countless plastic bags floating all over the place.
In a PowerPoint presentation he delivered, he showed a list of the most wanted people in Marikina, but on top of the list is not a person, but “plastics.” From there on, he considered plastics as the number one public enemy.
Magsalos’ words were translated into actions that resulted in the strict implementation of an anti-plastic campaign at Marikina PNP Station. A policeman who will be caught bringing a plastic bag inside the police station will have to do 20 push-ups as punishment while jail visitors are stopped whenever the desk officer spots food or other items carried in plastic bags. Everyone in the station is encouraged to use alternative containers when going to the market or grocery stores. Instead of using plastic bags, old newspapers are transformed into trash cans.
Even though he is a higher authority he did not take his position for granted. He knew the defining lines of the implementation of this campaign. Starting with himself and banking on a multiplier effect via all 300 policemen and other workers inside the Marikina PNP Station made his campaign raging in action. His advocacy shows that it is possible for government employees to exercise political will and set an example.
The example of handling nature with care set out by Chief Magsalos has inspired other policemen. Police Officer 2 Dhonnie Deladia said in a separate interview: “We were told that change must start from us, and we must also teach our children to do the same.”
PSSupt. Romeo Magsalos is Lanao del Sur’s incumbent provincial police director. He is still implementing the same campaign he started at Marikina. “Yes, I am still doing this practice. At natutuwa ako na ang dami nang gumagawa ng ganitong practice,” he said in a telephone interview.
If Magsalos’ simple deed was able to influence over 300 policemen when he was in Marikina, why not ordinary citizens like us? Mr. Magsalos’ deeds embolden us to become vigilant eco-vanguards, mindful of the ways by which catastrophes like Ondoy and the recent flood incidents in NCR and Luzon can be minimized by simple words and simple deeds that simply say: “No to Plastic.”