Monday, March 13, 2017

PO2 Arlene Manatad:
One, only woman SWAT

TAGBILARAN CITY, March 11, (PIA)—So what’s with a woman in the elite police force?

There must have something that toughened this frail girl in a brood of four from a remote barangay in Buenavista, Bohol to let her squeeze through hardships as they fall one by one the moment she wears the bulletproof vest of prayer and determination. 

The name Arlene Manatad is just like any ordinary Boholano name. 

At 27, and a single parent to an 8 year old girl, this innocent looking face and disarming smile is a woman’s taser. But her normal build masks a core toughness that makes Arlene Manatad a name whispered among the elites of Bohol police force. 

She has just crossed over the fence of the frail woman image to be honored as the first and only woman member of the elite police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in Bohol. 

Said to be the toughest test of physical fitness and agility, mental and spiritual strength among elite police officer’s trainings, SWAT commissioning have been notoriously called the most physically rigorous and mentally straining activity for 77 days of police life. 

But for Police Officer 2 Manatad, the pain and the strain are just hurdles towards her determined goal to bring the woman earn its rightful equal footing, with the men. 

Born on June 4, 1989 as the youngest in a brood of four, three of them boys, Arlene traces her playgrounds in remote barangay in Lusong, Buenavista town. Their father works as the barangay captian and sallies back and forth with works at the National Grid Corporation while her mother does the child rearing and the housework. 

For her, being alone to fend off for herself is never new: she has to walk from her barangay to the nearby elementary school in Lubang, and to stay in a boarding house in Getafe for her secondary schools. By the time she was ripe for college, she opted to sail across to Cebu and studied Bachelor of Science major in Criminology at the University of Cebu. Alone. 

A class mate in college, whom she would have to be forced to marry, got her pregnant. Four days after her marriage, her husband left them and would show up again later in her life.

When ladies of less temper would have surrendered to the bad fate, she continued her school while nursing the baby and keeping them eating square meals in economically challenging Cebu. 

By December 1, 2010, she was accepted in the police force after passing the board, at that time, her estranged husband showed up to seek favors, but having survived after he abandoned them, she has had enough. 

Her first assignment was at the Cebu Provincial Police Office, but desk work bores her that she decided to barge into the world of men in the police force: the Regional Public Safety Battalion. 

There she showed what a woman can do in a world dominated by testosterone: become intelligence chief among Alpha ones. 

To prove she still has a fight left in her, she jumped into the chance to train into the anti-insurgency police force: the PNP Scouts.

Along with 2000 at the trainings, Arlene was said to be the youngest but was the source of inspiration among women in the training camp. 

“I was the youngest but I hand to be the mother taking care of the women who feel too tired to go on,” she beamed. 

For that, she said she felt lucky to be among the 264 police officers accepted.

And that plus her precise operational skills endeared her to the elder SWAT: she was often borrowed to infiltrate anti-drug and anti- crime ring operations. 

After completing years of meritorious service for Cebu, PO2 Arlene requested for transfer, where the SWAT and RPSB take turns using her skill and intelligence gathering skills in operations, enough to push her to finally officially join the SWAT training in Bohol. 

Of the 4 women in the 72 who started training in November, PO2 Manatad flew through the hurdles, grimacing but the pain paid off when she finished among the top ten in a graduating class of 64. 

“The training was hard but what was harder was when my father left us and my mother for another woman in 2012,” she bared.

But, if it had to happen, it should, she finally hinted. 

Already whetted by the abrasive stones of trails, the acid test of endurance in trainings and the firm resolve to fight it out; nails and teeth, when life hands a dirty deal, living as a woman, mother and a crime-buster for PO2 Arlene Manatad has always been a multi-tasking feat. 

“Of course, life is tough, she hints, but with the playing fields now expanding for women to get on the arena, all one needs is to commit to the tasks at hand and never give up,” she advised. 

“As women, we should never be afraid to stand for our rights,” she stressed. 

We are not alone. We have agencies that are there to help us, she capped.

That statement etched an image in our minds, “fix eyes to the target, breathe, relax, aim and shoot.”

It could have been PO2 Manatad’s unspoken motto. 

She is an undisputed sharpshooter, co SWAT graduates proudly told us. (rac/PIA-7/Bohol)
Fixing the eyes to the crosshairs, breathe, relax, aim, squeeze and shoot. PO2 Arlene Manatad shares what being a woman is in a world brimming with testosterone. (rac/PIA-7/Bohol)