Manpower lack snags fight vs crime
The mother of three was waiting for a ride home from work at the corner of Taft Avenue and Edsa in Pasay City around 11 p.m. on Jan. 14 when a man suddenly appeared and grabbed her bag at knife-point.
She had just withdrawn P5,000 from a nearby automated teller machine to buy medicine for her 68-year-old father, a stroke victim.
“I was so scared and shocked that I could not even open my mouth. In a few seconds, the man ran off and disappeared from my sight,” Labador recalled of her experience, one of 633 theft and robbery cases recorded daily by the Philippine National Police during the first half of 2014.
Luckily for the 37-year-old call center agent, the felon was arrested during a follow-up police operation a few days later, although the money she lost was not recovered.
“The PNP should have more personnel patrolling the streets to guard against petty criminals [preying] on poor people like me,” she said wryly.
In his 2013 State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III vowed to curb rising criminality with the hiring of additional nonuniformed personnel (NUP) to assist law enforcers in their administrative duties.
“After all, the skills and abilities of our police would be put to waste if we keep them imprisoned in the four corners of an office,” Mr. Aquino had said.
But a year later, only about 7,500 civilian employees had been hired to help out the 148,000-strong police force.
Although Interior Secretary Mar Roxas had directed the PNP to hasten the recruitment of NUP to beef up police presence in public, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said it would take a while for the PNP to hire additional personnel.
Bound to budget
“We cannot hire 30,000 NUP at once because we also follow the budget appropriated to us by the national government,” Sindac said, adding that the PNP was set to hire another 7,500 NUPs before the year ends.
In a previous interview, Roxas said that based on international standards, there should be at least one policeman for every 500 people. The country’s ratio at present is 1:700.
In Makati City, the country’s financial center, the nighttime police to population ratio is 1:10,714, prompting Mayor Junjun Binay to request the PNP for additional uniformed personnel.
Noting that the PNP was allowed to recruit only 3,000 new police officers every year, PNP Director General Alan Purisima ordered the rationalization of deploying more law enforcers in crime-prone areas.
Purisima also tapped the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams as “force multipliers” against crime on the village level.
But despite the rise in criminality, the Aquino administration’s performance in curbing crime got a higher approval rating than its crusade against corruption.
In a survey conducted by Pulse Asia in June, the Aquino administration got an approval rating of 54 percent in fighting crime, the only issue out of 11 national issues that merited a majority approval for the government in the survey.
The administration scored a 50-percent approval rating on the issue of peace and order in the country, the same rating given by survey respondents on its performance in fighting corruption.
In his annual performance report to the President in 2013, Purisima said that “the recruitment and selection process [in the PNP] has been revolutionized such that only the most qualified with desirable competencies are accepted into the organization.”
He said his reform-centered policy agenda revolved around “CODE P,” which stands for competence, organizational reforms, discipline, excellence and professionalism.
Such efforts to introduce much-needed institutional reforms in the PNP, however, were overshadowed by an increase in recent killings and other crimes in the first half of this year.
Crimes recorded by police during the first six months of the year went up to 346,469, an increase of 17.44 percent over crime figures during the same period last year.
This translated to at least 1,923 crimes committed daily for the first 180 days of 2014, excluding those not reported to the police.
In the same period last year, a total of 295,012 crimes were recorded nationwide, or an average of 1,639 crimes in a day.
Statistics compiled by the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management also showed that 5,004 people were murdered across the country from January to June this year, a total of 28 murders every day.
In addition, 4,091 cases of homicide were reported to the PNP.
Most of the index crimes—or crimes included in the Revised Penal Code—during the period involved cases of physical injury, with 122,084 incidents.
Rape accounted for 5,069 cases while car theft incidents totaled 5,599 in the first half of the year.
Sindac said the significant increase in the number of crimes was a direct result of Purisima’s order for police commanders to submit crime reports based on figures from the police blotter.
Purisima had ordered the sacking of at least a dozen senior police officials, including a regional police director, for trying to manipulate the number of crimes reported in their areas of jurisdiction.
Sindac said that in 2003, the PNP had reported a total of 83,704 crimes committed, with almost 95 percent of them solved.
But he added: “If we really have that kind of situation, it’s almost a utopian condition because every crime is solved by the police.”
He said the PNP’s crime solution efficiency was more like “almost four out of every 10 crimes,” which he described as an “all-time high.”
In nearly five of every 10 criminal cases, the PNP had been able to identify the suspects and file cases against them, Sindac added.
Asked about the the rash of recent killings, the PNP spokesperson said their number was less than 1 percent of all crimes committed this year, except that “among those killed were high-profile personalities [whose cases] caught the public’s attention.”
“But we believe that one murder is one too many and we are trying our very best to bring justice to the victims and their families,” Sindac said.
Several government officials were gunned down in recent months, among them Liberal Party member Mayor Ernesto Balonglong Jr. of Urbiztondo town, Pangasinan province, who was gunned down while inspecting the venue for his silver wedding anniversary celebration the following day.
Two other town mayors were killed in Cagayan province and Compostela Valley, while hotel magnate Richard L. King of the Crown Regency Group was shot dead inside his office in Davao City in June.
Sindac said that compared to Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, the average monthly crime rate in the Philippines was even less.
Less crime rate
“I can honestly say that the situation in the country is peaceful while the crime situation is still manageable. It’s not out of control or out of hand. The people can still move about freely and continue their activities without (being harassed by criminals),” he added.
But Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) founding chair Dante Jimenez disagreed and described the current state of criminality as the “worst” his group had seen in the past few years.
“There is already a total breakdown of law and order in our country,” the anticrime crusader said, adding that the VACC had noted how killings and rape cases in the Philippines had “tripled” during the Aquino administration.
“If our country is not composed of 7,107 islands, there might already be a civil war in the Philippines because there are killings, robberies and other crimes on a daily basis,” he said.
“It seems that the syndicates have perfected the use of motorcycles in carrying out their nefarious activities and the government is helpless stopping them. Even the problem on illegal drugs is worsening.”
President Aquino should seek the support of his political allies in Congress to revive the death penalty, Jimenez said.
“The worsening condition of peace and order in our country calls for a drastic measure. It’s an effect of the abolition of the death penalty. The criminals are no longer afraid to violate the laws because they know they can go around our judicial system with their money,” he added.
VACC chair Martin Dino, meanwhile, urged Roxas to tap village watchmen to supplement police visibility in the streets, saying that about 5 million “structured village personnel” were willing to be at the forefront of the government’s fight against crime.
Dino also called on the interior and local government secretary to order the setting up of police checkpoints in every village in Metro Manila to limit the movement of motorcycle-riding criminals.