‘Less drugs, less crime’

PNP chief Gamboa cites police ‘milestones’ in bloody narcotics war—while the shadow of questioned ops, deaths lingers.

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THE country’s crime statistics continue to plummet as a result of the government’s “aggressive” campaign against illegal drugs and anti-criminality strategies that are being implemented, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Crime has remained on a downtrend. And we are winning the war on illegal drugs. As I have promised since I assumed command over the PNP in April 2018, we will not relax, we will not relent, and we will fulfill our President’s vision of a drug-free Philippines,” said PNP chief General Archie Gamboa.

“Recently, we joined the nation as we welcomed the new survey ranking the Philippines as the 24th best place to live and work, following the United States which ranked as 23rd and ahead of China which ranked as 26th. This only shows that the government’s strong and relentless peace-and-order campaign significantly contributed in creating a secure environment across the nation where our countrymen feel safe to work, live and do business.”— PNP chief General Archie Gamboa

Buoyed by the trend—a sustained drop in crime figures since the current administration came into office in 2016—the PNP chief vowed to adopt further measures and step up the organization’s effort in reducing crime in the country.

This would include sustained operations against drug suspects, intensified patrols, conducts of checkpoints, greater presence of policemen on the streets, stepped up police operations and aggressive accounting of wanted persons.

Fruits of ‘Oplan Tokhang’

From July 1, 2016, to July 31, 2019, alone, the PNP has carried out a total of 163,622 anti-illegal drugs operations that resulted in the arrest of more than 256,000 drug personalities, the deaths of more than 6,000 in police operations and the surrender of more than 1.2 million drug pushers and users under Oplan Tokhang.

Operations against high-value targets also resulted in the arrest of 3,133, the surrender of 3,705 and the death of 325 in police operations, according to police data.

Also, out of the 42,045 barangays, 16,706 have been declared drug-free.

In an apparent concession to the continuing criticism over alleged abuses in the conduct of the war, Gamboa said, “Let me assure our countrymen that all police operations against illegal drugs continue to be conducted within the bounds of the law with utmost respect for human rights.”

The PNP chief, however said that the anti-illegal drugs campaign does not stop with the arrest of drug personalities, insisting that the government would also seek to reform them.

Butch Olano, Amnesty International section director in the Philippines, holds a copy of the Amnesty’s report on July 8, 2019, in Manila.

“We have the Recovery and Wellness Program that offers hope, new life and a bright future for surrenderers. Through this community-based recovery and out-patient wellness program, we hope to transform them by providing spiritual, psychological, physiological, economic and other forms of support to capacitate them to help rebuild their lives, restore their values and become productive members of society,” he said.

From 2016 to July 2019, more than 435,000 surrenderers have graduated from the program, said the PNP.

Cease production

The anti-illegal drugs campaign shut down 14 clandestine shabu laboratories and 419 drug dens in different parts of the country over the past three years, prompting the PNP to declare that there are no longer signs that indicate “local production of methamphetamine products in the Philippines.”

The campaign took away from the streets an estimated over P40 billion worth of shabu, marijuana and ecstacy pills.

“As we remained relentless in the war on drugs, we effectively sustained the decline in the crime rate as we intensified operations particularly against the eight focus crimes, namely, murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, carnapping of motor vehicles and motorcycles,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa added that over the past three years, crime incidents sustained their decrease.

From more than 626,000 from July 2015 to June 2016, the total crime volume decreased by 58,276 or 9.30 percent during the first year of President Duterte’s term covering the period of July 2016 up to June 2017. This further decreased by 79,647 incidents or 14.02 percent on the second year covering the period July 2017 up to June 2018; and further went down by 2.91 percent on the third year covering the period of July 2018 up to June 2019.

“Recently, we joined the nation as we welcomed the new survey ranking the Philippines as the 24th best place to live and work, following the United States which ranked as 23rd and ahead of China which ranked as 26th. This only shows that the government’s strong and relentless peace-and-order campaign significantly contributed in creating a secure environment across the nation where our countrymen feel safe to work, live and do business,” the PNP chief said.

For the third quarter of last year, Gamboa said the PNP sustained the downtrend, with crimes such as murder, homicide, physical injury, robbery, theft and carjacking posting a decline.

He said murder cases went down by by 9.81 percent, homicide by 11.90 percent, robbery by 4.52 percent, carnapping by 45.86 percent and theft by 13.84 percent.

“While we have given a large part of our efforts, time and resources to intensifying police operations against crime and illegal drugs, we have also been giving equal effort to the continuing implementation of reforms and internal cleansing in the police service,” the PNP chief said.

From July 2016 up to July 31, 2019, a total of 2,476 police officers with various administrative cases were dismissed from the service, 493 demoted, 4,240 were suspended and 202 saw their salaries forfeited.

Another 684 policemen were reprimanded, 45 were placed under restrictive custody and a total of 438 involved in drug-related cases were dismissed from the service.

Indeed, the “real numbers” as the government wants to describe its data, may be, for the sake of argument, fairly accurate. Still, to critics here and abroad, the past three years have seen no major breakthrough in the efforts to seek justice for those felled by the drug war—under questionable or unjust circumstances, as their loved ones insist.

Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez, Philippine National Police via AP


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