Killings just part of rise and fall of crime, says PNP
First posted 02:45am (Mla time) May 25, 2006
By Norman Bordadora, Luige A. del Puerto
SHORT OF saying that the killings of activists and journalists cannot be stopped, a ranking police officer yesterday said that crime had its cycles of ups and downs.
Tough luck, it is now on the upswing.
"You know, there is a trend in crime. Sometimes it falls, sometimes it goes up …" Philippine National Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said.
When crimes go up, the PNP action is to address "this sudden and temporary rise," Pagdilao said.
"It is really a fluctuating thing that follows the sine curve," he said, referring to the graph on cyclical behavior.
The unchecked killings of militants have alarmed human rights groups, including the London-based Amnesty International (AI), which said many victims of human rights abuses and even common crimes in the country failed to get redress because of intimidation from people in authority and a weak witness protection system.
In its 2006 world report, AI also said there was such little confidence in authorities to solve human rights violations and other crimes that public tolerance for vigilantism had gained ground in the country.
Pagdilao said a rise in the crime rate did not mean the police had failed in their job.
'Not a perfect world'
"We are not blaming anybody, and I hope people will not also blame the police, because crime fighting is a shared responsibility," he said.
Told that the creation of one task force after another had not stopped the killings, Pagdilao said that was the "dynamics of the system."
"We are not in (a) perfect world. Even in the US, in most advanced countries, there is rise and fall of crime," he said.
At least 220 political activists have been killed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001, according to an Inquirer tally based on its own reports and on reports from militant groups Bayan Muna and Karapatan.
Media help needed
The country's unsavory international image as a dangerous place for journalists also suffered a further blotch earlier this week when radio commentator Fernando Batul was gunned down in Puerto Princesa City -- the 79th media fatality since democracy was restored in 1986.
Director Isidro Lapeña, chief of the PNP directorial staff, asked media groups to sit down with the police to discuss measures to minimize the killings.
The police will also discuss the killings with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Lapeña said.
Citizens' civic duty
Asked about the statement from a CHR official that, no matter who was doing the killing, it was the state's job to protect people's lives and secure their homes, Lapeña said: "Giving protection to citizens is the responsibility of government."
"Maybe we can minimize these happenings if everybody will join hands to address this problem, not only the government," he said.
Pagdilao said that going after criminals and maintaining peace was not the job of the police alone. Citizens must also perform their civic duty by helping the police, he said.
He said the police were studying the possibility of adopting the so-called "one-strike policy" to stop the killings in the same manner it was being implemented to stop "jueteng" or illegal gambling operations.
This would mean that a town or city police chief would be immediately relieved of his command if an activist, journalist or local executive was assassinated in his area.
In its report, the AI said that "implementation of a fair trial and custodial safeguards remained weak, and criminal suspects were at risk of ill-treatment or torture by the PNP during extended periods of 'investigative' detention."
The AI mentioned the case of alleged senior communist rebel Elmer Osila who complained he was tortured during interrogation.
An investigation by the CHR revealed marks on Osila's body consistent with torture, AI said.
"Intimidation, aggravated by a lack of effective witness protection programs, undermined the ability of victims of human rights abuses to gain redress, especially when they were members of poor or marginalized communities," it added.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye called the AI report "unfair."
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. proposed that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez head the body that would look into the killings of activists.
During the Senate's national budget debate, Pimentel argued that it would be better for a civilian rather than an official with a military background, such as Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, to head such a probe.
"I would be more confident in the ability of a purely civilian bureaucrat, like the secretary of justice, who in his younger days was known for his firm advocacy of human rights. I don't know about now," he added, eliciting chuckles from the audience.
Gonzalez turned down such an idea, saying that Ermita headed the Cabinet security cluster which had jurisdiction over such matter.
Gonzalez also said critics of the administration should not be too hasty in blaming the killings on the military.
"I will not make a prejudgment because these are all stories," he said.
*With a report from TJ Burgonio*