Amid rising crime wave, Filipinos worry about their police

Updated On: May 27, 2005

Manila – It is under-manned and under-equipped. It is one of the most corrupt government agencies. It is also the least trusted. That about sums up the sorry state of the country’s guardians of the law, the Philippine National Police (PNP). And in a country grappling with a rising crime rate, a discredited police force is the last thing that it needs.

    “The main problem of the PNP is its perceived lack of integrity,” said Mr Eric Alvia, president of the United People Against Crime, a non-governmental organisation. “Policemen have lost the trust and respect of the public; that’s why few people care to report crimes,” he added.
    Polls put the police among the four most corrupt agencies and the one least trusted. It is an open secret that many police officers – one estimate puts it at 20 per cent of the force – are themselves serial law-breakers. Along with soldiers, police officers have been known to take part in kidnappings, bank heists, extortion and drug trafficking.  
    Given the rising crime wave – some 26,257 cases have been reported in the first four months of this year, or a rise by 4.2 per cent – the involvement of some policemen in criminal activities has only deepened public anxiety. The authorities attributed the increase to serious crimes such as rape, murder, robbery and other killings.   
    The  top brass has embarked on a “transformation plan” to rid the police force of the “culture of violence”, said General Ricardo de Leon, the PNP’s deputy chief for operations. 
    Under the plan, policemen will undergo retraining to develop the right values and to become community leaders. It also calls for the setting up of Councils of Community Elders in every police station in the country to act as “external monitors”. 
    Apart from the lack of integrity, the PNP also faces serious logistics problems, such as a lack of personnel and basic equipment caused by the government’s budget squeeze since the 1990s.
     About 15,000 policemen of the 115,104-strong force do not have guns. About four-fifths of the 1,530 police stations in the country have no handheld radios. The force also needs about 1,860 patrol cars and 7,000 motorcycles.
    “We have barely adequate equipment to move, shoot and investigate. We are doing everything to transform the PNP into a capable, effective and credible institution. But we are under-manned and under-funded,” said PNP’s chief General Arturo Lomibao.  

* Sorry state of the police in the Philippines (The Straits Times, May 25)