From Duterte to Marcos: PH crime volume drops, but ‘impunity persists’ | Inquirer News

From Duterte to Marcos: PH crime volume drops, but ‘impunity persists’

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 04:30 PM December 14, 2022
From Duterte to Marcos: PH crime volume drops, but ‘impunity persists’ FILE PHOTO / Sam Yap

MANILA, Philippines—When Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from office on June 30, his successor Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. inherited the task of ending impunity and improving the Philippine justice system.

This year—which mirrors the tail-end of Duterte’s presidency and the start of Marcos’—saw index crime volume in the country inching lower and adherence to the rule of law slightly improving.


The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported 34,050 index crimes from Jan. 1 to Nov. 13, which represents a decline of 2.66 percent, or 932 cases, compared to figures in the same period in 2021.

READ: Index crimes drop this year except for robbery, theft – PNP

Index crimes, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, are crimes that the PNP deemed “serious in nature” as they frequently occur to the extent of these being a tell-tale sign of how crime-ridden an area is.


Among those considered as index crimes are murder, homicide, physical injury, car theft, robbery, theft, and rape.



Except for robbery and theft, focus crimes—which all fall under the umbrella of index crimes—posted a decline in frequency, according to the PNP.

  • Murder—From 4,209 to 3,706 cases, falling by 11.95 percent
  • Homicide—From 997 to 887 cases, falling by 12.04 percent
  • Physical injury—From 4,704 to 4,551 cases, falling by 3.25 percent
  • Rape—From 8,225 to 7,197 cases, falling by 12.50 percent
  • Car theft (Motor vehicle)—From 319 to 250 cases, falling by 21.63 percent
  • Car theft (Motorcycle)—From 1,676 to 1,637, falling by 2.33 percent
  • Robbery—From 4,318 to 4,331 cases, rising by 0.30 percent
  • Theft—From 10,344 to 11,295 cases, rising by 9.19 percent

There was also a slight improvement in the Philippines’ overall rule of law score in the World Justice Project (WJP) index – from 0.46 in 2021 to 0.47 in 2022.

Climbing five positions since 2021, the Philippines now ranks 97th out of 140 countries examined across the globe. It, however, remains among the worst in East Asia and the Pacific Region—maintaining its place as 13th out of 15 countries, only ahead of Myanmar and Cambodia.

There was an uptick in the country’s score in order and security (0.63 to 0.66), fundamental rights (0.39 to 0.40), and criminal justice (0.31 to 0.32), but it remained stagnant in the five other factors considered in the 2022 WJP Rule of Law Index.

READ: Rule of law in PH: Ranking inches up, but situation ‘gloomier’

“Hopefully, we can sustain these gains. The crime environment remains manageable and hopefully, this will still be the same situation we’ll see next year,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a phone interview with

‘Impunity persists’

But despite the downturn in crime volume and the slight improvement in the Philippines’ rule of law adherence, Carlos Conde, a senior researcher for New York-based non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), said “nothing significant has changed in terms of the state of human rights” under the Marcos administration.


“Killings still happen. Activists and journalists are still being attacked. Impunity persists,” he told over the phone.

Conde pointed out that the shooting tragedy inside the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), and the fatal ambush of radio man-vlogger Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa prove that impunity in the country “is alive and well.”

“People are just not afraid to kill others because they think they can get away with it,” he added.

To recall, a gun attack inside the AdMU campus last July claimed the lives of former Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay, her longtime aide Victor Capistrano, and AdMU security guard Jeneven Bandiala.

READ: His name is Jeneven Bandiala: One of those killed in Ateneo gun attack

Furigay’s daughter, Hannah, who was set to graduate from the Ateneo Law School on that day, was also wounded in the brazen attack.

READ: Ex-mayor, 2 others killed in Ateneo

The alleged gunman, Chao Tiao Yumol, is a doctor from Lamitan City, who bore a grudge against Furigay after she had filed cyber libel cases against him that later resulted in his suspension from medical practice.

Days after Yumol’s shooting rampage on AdMU grounds, his father, Rolando, was gunned down by motorcycle-riding men outside his residence in Lamitan City, Basilan.

READ: Father of Ateneo shooting suspect shot dead in Basilan

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman condemned the murder of Rolando as he appealed for the public to refrain from spreading speculations about the killings which, he said, may only trigger more violent actions.

“Huwag nating hayaang maging normal ang pagkitil ng buhay sa ating kultura, lalo na kapag nadadamay ang mga inosenteng mamamayan. It is not who we are as Basileños, as Filipinos and as human beings,” he said in a statement.

(Let us not normalize a culture of violence and killings, especially if it involves innocent people. This is not who we are as Basileños, Filipinos, and human beings.)

READ: Hataman decries ‘senseless killing’ of Ateneo shooting suspect’s father

Yumol has since pleaded not guilty to the murder, frustrated murder and carjacking charges lodged against him.

On the other hand, the murder of Mabasa ignited outrage from journalists, government officials, lawmakers, human rights defenders, and even foreign nations.

The tough-talking radio broadcaster, who was known for his searing “Lapid Fire” commentaries on erring government officials and personalities, was assassinated while on his way to his studio in Las Piñas City last Oct. 3.

He is the second journalist killed under the Marcos administration, and the 197th journalist to be killed since 1986.

But the highly publicized investigation on the Mabasa case, coupled with twists and turns that can be likened to a telenovela plot, exposed not just the apparent high price of dissent in the Philippines but also the systemic flaws underlining its prisons.

READ: Prison deaths high under Bantag, some found with ‘criminal intent’

Aside from inconsistent prisoner data, and proliferation of contraband in detention cells, the biggest crack exposed in the country’s prison system was the alleged involvement of not just government officials, but also prisoners in crimes beyond the confines of correctional facilities.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) had said its investigation pointed to Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag and BuCor deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta as the alleged brains behind the murder of Mabasa and the supposed middleman, Cristito Palaña, who was earlier referred to as Jun or Crisanto Villamor.

The DOJ also unveiled a detailed chain of people supposedly involved in the murders of Mabasa and Villamor, which showed that a number of prisoners played a part in their killings even from behind bars.

“The investigation has brought to light the institutionalization of a criminal organization within the government. This will be the cause of many reforms in government,” lawyer Eugene Javier of the National Bureau of Investigation said at a news conference.

READ: What we know so far: Bantag and those linked to Percy Lapid, middleman slays

Conde said the “only measure of an end to impunity” is if these cases, among many others, are being thoroughly investigated with the suspects being fully prosecuted.

“So far, that is not happening. All we hear from the government and the DOJ are rhetoric,” he added.

Conde also argued that while Marcos has repeatedly expressed commitment to uphold human rights, it has yet to “translate [into] improved investigations and prosecutions.”

A new face to the drug war

Aside from the much publicized Ateneo gun rampage and the Mabasa murder, Conde said continued drug-related killings also demonstrate how impunity continues to ail the country.

Prior to assuming office, Marcos was repeatedly urged by human rights and advocacy groups to dismantle the brutal and blood-marred drug war of his predecessor.

READ: Bongbong Marcos urged by int’l rights group to stop drug war abuses

And while not completely abandoning Duterte’s controversial anti-illegal drugs campaign, Marcos has thus far tried to do away with the former administration’s violent approach on the drug problem.



The Marcos administration’s newly launched “Bida: Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan” (Take Care of Life, Reject Drugs) program recalibrates the drug war to now focus on demand reduction and drug user rehabilitation, according to Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr.

He said the new face of the government’s drug war will work “within the framework of the law and with respect for human rights and with focus on rehabilitation and socioeconomic development.”

READ: Gov’t launches new drug war campaign

Conde pointed out that the pivot to the Marcos administration saw a “noticeable change” in the implementation of the anti-drug campaign which, he said, is reflected in the low number of killings.

“Toward the latter part of the Duterte administration, this was already the case [but] the Marcos administration has been less forthcoming about the death toll unlike the Duterte administration,” he said.

Marcos’ anti-illegal drugs campaign has so far killed a “very minimal” number of 46 people, according to the PNP.

READ: PNP: 46 killed in drug war under Marcos ‘very minimal’

This is a far cry from the death toll in Duterte’s vicious drug war which, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), stood at 6,252 as of May 31. Human rights watchdogs, however, have since contested this, claiming that the actual number of deaths may be up to 30,000.

READ: 6,252 drug suspects killed as of May 31 – PDEA

“But make no mistake: the drug war continues, and the violence continues as well,” Conde said. “It is reasonable to say that it will continue. Mr. Marcos has not demonstrated a desire to stop the campaign, which is what we demand him to do. Instead, he says he’s going to focus on rehabilitation but has not shown any new initiative on this.”

The drug war deaths so far reported by the PNP falls behind the 127 drug-related killings from July 1 to Nov. 7 based on the “Dahas” initiative of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center, and the Ghent University’s Development Studies.

But the PNP has maintained that only 46 have died in anti-illegal drugs operations since Marcos took the helm of the country.

“We stand by the figures earlier issued by the PNP. We have to understand that the PNP has been very transparent in releasing to the public the result of police operations, not only drug-related cases but other police operations as well. So the number we gave previously, which is 46, is the actual data gathered by the national headquarters coming from our line units,” Fajardo said.



She also noted that it was “quite difficult” for the PNP to come up with an inaccurate report on drug war deaths as it was already using an improved data-gathering system to streamline death toll reporting in police operations from the provincial to the national level.

Fajardo called on groups insisting that the PNP was underreporting drug-related fatalities to coordinate with law enforcement agencies to look into the validity of their claims.

“Make the proper coordination. I see no reason why we cannot, at least, discuss some concerns being floated by these groups,” she said.

A rare drop in drug war justice

Further delving into the drug war discussion, the second criminal conviction of police officers linked to the bloody war on drugs waged by the Duterte administration was also handed down by a Caloocan City regional trial court last November.

Police officer Jeffrey Perez was found guilty of torture and evidence fraud in the killings of drug war victims Carl Arnaiz, 19, and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, 14, five years ago.

Fajardo said this development was welcomed by the PNP, noting how this proves that the country’s justice system remains functional.

“What this conviction shows is that the criminal justice system in the Philippines is working. While others may see a slow resolution of cases, the bottom line is there is a conviction. We welcome this,” she added.

READ: PNP: Cop convicted for drug war torture of 2 teens proves PH justice system works

But this conviction, no matter how rare, reveals lapses in police operations under the former administration’s bloodstained crackdown on illegal drugs.

Fajardo, however, echoed the PNP’s assertion that it “will never tolerate any wrongdoings committed by any of our police officers.”

“This conviction will be a constant reminder to every one of us that no one is above the law. Even us police officers are governed by law, so if you transgress the law, if you violate any law then, you have to suffer the consequences and face the music,” she said.

Fajardo also assured the public that periodic reviews are being done by the PNP “to validate whether the police operational procedures were followed by the participating operatives, and if there were some lapses and violations that will be noted during the conduct of operations that resulted in deaths.”

“The PNP will initiate appropriate investigations and impose penalties if there will be findings of misdemeanor on the part of the PNP,” she added.

Showing data from the PNP’s assessment of its operations and personnel, Fajardo said 2,098 drug-related cases have been filed against PNP officers and non-uniformed personnel from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 16, 2022.

“From that number, there are more or less 554 PNP personnel that were dismissed from service. There were those demoted, there were those suspended,” she also noted.

While Fajardo acknowledged that there may be some delays in the resolution of cases involving PNP personnel, she argued that they have no control over this as it is “really up to the courts to decide on these pending cases.”

Justice system favoring ‘those in power’

But beyond the seemingly slow grind of justice in the country, Conde pointed out that it also “remains subject to the whims of those in power.”

Taking the controversial arrest of DOJ chief Jesus Crispin Remulla’s son as an example, he said it can be “reasonably argued” that there was special treatment in the way the case was handled by law enforcement agencies.

Last Oct. 11, Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla III, 38, was arrested at his Las Piñas City address by a team of operatives from PDEA and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Inter-Agency Drug Interdiction Task Group.

He was indicted, with no recommended bail, by the Las Piñas City prosecutor office for illegal possession of almost a kilogram of kush or high-grade marijuana.

The justice secretary, in a handwritten statement published hours after his son’s case was made public, vowed to “not intervene in nor influence” in Juanito’s case.

“A person should always face the consequence of their actions and I will let justice take its own course. I will respect the justice system and I wish my son a path to redemption,” he further wrote.

READ: DOJ chief Remulla to let son face consequences for P1.3 million kush importation

But Conde cited reasons that may suggest that special treatment was granted to Remulla’s son.

One of these, Conde said, was the blurring of Juanito’s mugshot in photos released by PDEA to media. While the agency insists that blurring the face of suspects has been its policy since March, it still unleashed an outpour of criticism since such ethical practice is not always applied to lesser known criminal suspects.

READ: PDEA defends move to blur mug shots of Remulla son

Conde also noted that the minimal media coverage on Juanito’s drug case is another sign that points to possible special treatment.

“The treatment of the son definitely suggests a double standard, and it also undermines the government’s oft-repeated claim that the drug war is fair and legitimate,” he said.

A peek into the Marcos years

Moving forward, Fajardo said upholding the rule of law “will be a continuing stand of the PNP.”

“You can expect that the PNP will sustain its anti-criminality efforts, but we are also open in reviewing, assessing, and evaluating if there are some areas for improvement,” she said.

Fajardo added that the looming change in PNP leadership next year, upon the expected retirement of Azurin from the police force, should not change the direction currently being pursued by the PNP since Marcos took office.

Conde, meanwhile, posed a challenge for the Marcos administration to take the reins in improving the state of human rights, and upgrading the quality of the justice system in the Philippines.

“The main challenge is not only to stop the drug war and the violence against activists and critics but, most important at this point, [is to] ensure that accountability happens. That those who suffered injustice will finally attain the justice that they have longed for all these years,” he said.

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