‘Public opinion is our only weapon vs rise in kidnap cases’
MANILA, Philippines–Some improvements in the antikidnapping campaign were observed in previous years, but kidnapping cases recently increased, according to Teresita Ang-See, founding chair of Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO).
Ang-See said MRPO was raising the alarm because one of the recent victims, Benito Chao, was killed, and the group did not want any more blood to be spilled in kidnapping cases.
“We’re making this public call because we all need public opinion and public pressure against these well-funded, well-organized, well-protected kidnap-for-ransom gangs. We don’t have weapons against them. Our only weapons are people like you, public opinion, public pressure to resolve the problem before it results in another death,” she told the Senate committee on public order.
The committee is hearing measures to modernize and improve the Philippine National Police.
Anticrime groups on Tuesday appealed for institutional and genuine reform in the PNP amid the rising cases of kidnapping.
Dante Jimenez of Volunteers against Crime and Corruption said kidnapping incidents were no longer limited to members of the Chinese-Filipino community. Anybody who is successful in business is being targeted, he said.
The involvement of police officers in kidnapping cases worsens the sense of unease, according to Ka Kuen Chua, MRPO chair.
Chua, who narrated his ordeal at the hands of kidnappers, said the reports about police officers turning criminal were not helping the fight against kidnapping.
He had been kidnapped twice, the first time in 2008 and the next in 2012.
Chua said he even considered himself lucky, since he was alive despite his ordeal. But he wouldn’t have had to endure the kidnapping had there been an efficient peace-and-order control system in place.
He said recent controversies involving police officers in criminal activities had made matters worse for his and others’ sense of security.
“Though it’s not for us to conclude that the national police organization is reeking of rats, suffice it to say that the rotten eggs in the organization have diminished our trust in our then regarded friendly neighborhood police,” he said.
He then wondered: “Where are we to go when the persons who are supposed to protect us are the same individuals who undermine the social order?”
Chua said there was a need to fully professionalize the PNP and to arm it with proper values to ensure it exists to serve and protect.
He said there was a need to pass laws to further equip and professionalize the PNP.
MRPO will remain a partner in crime prevention and control, and will work with all stakeholders, he added.
Ang-See provided several suggestions on how to bring about genuine change.
She said there should be a 90-day continuous trial for criminal cases with policemen as the accused. This would ensure the police officers would not be able to harass the victims and force them to withdraw cases.
She noted that MRPO was handling two kidnapping with murder cases and one kidnapping case involving policemen as suspects. All three are taking a long time to prosecute.
She also supported the idea of requiring SIM card registration, since kidnappers were using cell phones in carrying out their crime.
Ang-See also said there must be reform within the PNP. She said MRPO may be the worst critic of the PNP, but it was also its best partner as it had fought for a better budget for the PNP.
One of the things that need to be addressed is the matter of police officials facing cases or coddling criminals, and yet can still stay in their jobs, and at times are even promoted, she said.
There must also be a better distribution of PNP funds. Ang-See said the bulk of the budget went to the central office, and by the time the rest of the funds were distributed to the precincts, hardly enough was left for their needs.
There are also too many layers in the PNP organization, she said.
She noted that the PNP tended to be personality oriented, with the implementation of programs depending on who was at the helm. There was no continuity, she lamented.
The People’s Law Enforcement Board should likewise get a boost, in order to fast-track the resolution of administrative cases against policemen and to encourage people to complain, she said.
Jimenez, for his part, said he supported Senate bills to improve the PNP as well as the measure to restore the death penalty.
He also said the pay of law enforcers must be increased, since low pay can entice police officers to turn to a life of corruption.
Jimenez, whose group has filed a plunder complaint against PNP Director General Alan Purisima, also spoke of the need for good leadership in the PNP to boost the morale of its personnel.
Purisima said the recent increase in crime volume could be attributed to better reporting.
In 2011, the crime volume was 241,000 and in 2012, it went down to 217,000. But in 2013, it was 846,000 based on police blotters. If the reports in the barangays (villages) would be included, this would go up to 1.2 million.
This year, as of June, the volume of crime was at 631,000.
Purisima said that before he took over as PNP chief in 2012, Social Weather Stations conducted a survey and found that only 15 percent of the crime volume was being reported to the police.
But Sen. Grace Poe said the PNP should ensure that the crime volume would not increase, but at the same time must see to it that crime statistics were reported accurately.
She suggested that CCTVs be installed in precincts to help ensure accurate reporting as well as observance of proper processes.
Police visibility must also be increased, she added.
The PNP must also expedite the registration of firearms and curb the proliferation of illegal firearms.
Poe also proposed studying the idea of improving the independence of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) by removing the PNP chief as member. The Napolcom handles complaints against police officers.
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