Aside from performing the already tedious duty of law enforcement operations, the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the guidance of three different leaders has faced an extraordinary battle this year including against an unseen enemy — the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
From being an officer-in-charge since October 2019, Gen. Archie Gamboa officially became the PNP’s top man in January following his appointment by President Rodrigo Duterte. Two months after assuming as PNP chief, Gamboa’s leadership skills faced the ultimate baptism of fire as he led the police force in preserving peace and order while at the same time helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Under Gamboa’s term, crime incidents in the country dropped by 47 percent as community quarantine measures in the country amid the Covid-19 have been in effect for six months.
During this time, then Joint Task Force Covid Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, said from 31,661 incidents of focus crimes recorded between Sept. 15, 2019 to March 16 this year, the figure dropped to only 16,879 from March 17 to Sept. 16.
The decline in crime incidents in the country translates to an average of 92 cases per day during the 184 days of the community quarantine compared to an average of 172 cases per day during the six-month pre-quarantine.
“We have been conducting an analysis of the crime situation in the past six months in order to identify the best practices and security adjustments that we could replicate in other areas and eventually institutionalized in order to sustain this momentum,” Eleazar earlier said.
The nine-month crime trend recorded from January to September further dipped towards the end of October with a more notable decrease in index crimes.
The PNP attributed this to their stepped-up campaign against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality while launching a massive crackdown on motorcycle-riding criminals involved in robbery-holdup and gun-for-hire activities.
The PNP also showed a 46-percent drop in focus crimes in the country during the 226-day community quarantine period (March 17 to Oct. 28, 2020) with 21,729 crimes, compared to 39,920 during the same period before the community quarantine (Aug. 4, 2019 to March 16, 2020).
This translates to a daily average of 96 cases during the quarantine period from the 177 cases per day average before the quarantine period. The eight focus crimes serve as the PNP’s barometer on peace and order situation in the Philippines.
These are murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, vehicle theft, and motorcycle theft.
Meanwhile, Gamboa, the PNP’s 23rd chief, said empowering people has become his top priority, noting that human resource is the most important resource of the police force.
As a result, he said PNP operational units have gained strong footings against criminal activities, especially on the campaign against illegal drugs, illegal gambling, and terrorism, among others.
Equal opportunity for cops
In his assumption speech as the country’s 24th top cop in September, Gamboa’s successor, Gen. Camilo Cascolan, said the PNP’s comprehensive master development plan includes giving equal opportunity and level the playing field in the placement and promotion of personnel based strictly on performance, service reputation, and merit and fitness in establishing a rationalized “succession planning” and “career path”.
Despite having a short term, Cascolan said he aims to boost morale and take care of the welfare of police officers.
Under his watch, Cascolan said PNP embarked on an intensive drive to promote human resource development aimed at ensuring that every police officer “will know his or her job and do it well.”
Cascolan bowed out of the service on Nov. 10 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56. He was replaced by then National Capital Region Police Office chief Debold Sinas.
Picking up from the mañanita (birthday serenade) controversy which drew flak from netizens, Sinas assured the public that the police service will be more visible down to the police-community precinct level.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching order to Sinas is to continue the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and ensure that the country is a safe place to live in.
Caring for police front-liners
As police officers were tapped as front-liners, they were not spared from the impact of the pandemic.
As of Dec. 28, the police force has recorded a total of 8,947 Covid-19 cases with 8,580 recoveries and 27 deaths.
The PNP is now conducting aggressive testing, said Eleazar, who is also now the commander of the Administrative Support for Covid-19 Task Force (ASCOTF).
Eleazar said they are eyeing to conduct Covid-19 testing for all police personnel assigned in Metro Manila. He added that Metro Manila will be prioritized as it is the epicenter of the pandemic and most of the molecular laboratories are located here.
At present, around 65 percent of all police officers in PNP headquarters were tested for Covid-19. Around 38,000 tests have been conducted for cops in the region, he added.
The molecular laboratory in Camp Crame has also increased its daily testing capacity to 300, from only 100. Meanwhile, Covid-19 tests conducted for personnel in National Support Units (NSUs) are at 66 percent and while tests in Police Regional Offices (PROs) are at 27.9 percent.
Sinas said the operation of a molecular laboratory at the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) to be used for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing of police personnel is set to start by the end of the month.
The facility, located within the compound of Camp Sotero Cabahug in Cebu City, will accommodate real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests for police and their dependents for possible infection.
Sinas said they are already finalizing the necessary permits from the Department of Health (DOH) and the training of the PNP medical personnel who will operate the facility. He said the facility will be able to accommodate 80 Covid-19 tests per day.
Wiping out bad eggs, communist terrorists
A total of 16,839 police officers have been penalized since 2016 under the PNP’s internal cleansing program to rid its ranks of scalawags.
Data showed that 4,784 police personnel have been dismissed from the service, 8,349 have been suspended, and 1,803 have been reprimanded.
Other punishments included demotion, forfeiture of salary, restriction, and withholding of privileges. Some 564 PNP personnel have also been removed for involvement in illegal drugs.
He added that as part of his core guidance, all police personnel on operations, such as patrol, anti-illegal drugs, anti-kidnapping, and others, must wear bulletproof vests, and other protective equipment.
Sinas also cited the surrender of nearly 3,000 communist terrorist personalities from January to November this year and major operational setbacks have weakened the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Sinas said over the entire 11-month period, a total of 3,312 CPP-NPA members were accounted for, of which 366 were arrested; 117 died during the operations, and 2,829 surrendered during separate police operations.
On the very day of the 52nd founding anniversary of the CPP on Dec. 26, he said 35 communist fighters surrendered and renounced their membership with the CPP and its armed wing, NPA in Caraga and Eastern Visayas regions.
On the same day, two ranking CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front leaders, both wanted by the court to stand trial for kidnapping and murder, were captured in Quezon province.
From Dec. 18 to 26, Sinas said six CPP-NPA-NDF members were arrested, 108 surrendered and 45 assorted firearms and eight explosive devices were confiscated.
Sinas said the enactment of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on July 3 boosted “the opportunities for the PNP to fully end the local insurgency.”
He said the communist group was generally passive in terms of mounting offensive operations that could show its strength and relevance relative to the celebration of the CPP’s 52nd founding anniversary.
“This passive stance strongly supports the overall assessment that the CPP/NPA has been substantially weakened because of the sustained and intensified government efforts to end local communist armed conflict that resulted to significant losses of key CPP-NPA leaders, seasoned fighters, and mass supporters,” he said.
Sinas said the PNP has enrolled 350 rebel returnees to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) and amnesty program, while 407 surrendered firearms were processed for grant of government benefits under E-CLIP.
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), these rebel returnees are given the life-changing opportunity to lead normal lives with their families as free and empowered citizens, he said.
Sinas, however, said the PNP remains vigilant in ensuring that it can effectively neutralize the remaining strength and armed capabilities of the rebels.
“It is still likely that they will attempt to mount armed offensives, possibly through the use of improvised landmines to ensure casualties,” he said.
He said the recent formal tag by the Anti-Terrorism Council of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization, is another significant setback to the underground local communist movement and its affiliate organizations.
This means that CPP-NPA assets may now be subject to the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s authority to freeze pursuant to Section 11 of RA 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act as provided under Section 25 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“With more equipment and personnel for tactical police operations, including five newly-organized maneuver battalions of the PNP Special Action Force, the PNP is poised to hit harder on its assigned internal security tasks and specific target,” he said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Source: Philippines News agency