Strike fear among criminals

For the PNP, it should reach out in earnest to possible victims of kidnapping that had refused to report their abductions after paying the ransom demanded.

September 10, 2022

Senator Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa’s statement, that “The Philippine National Police should terrorize the criminals and not the other way around,” clearly hit some raw nerves at the organization he used to head.

De la Rosa chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, and any statement coming from him echoing public perception of rising criminality under the Marcos administration carries a lot of weight.

The senator’s assertion that criminals are having a field day — after cowering in fear under the Duterte administration? — certainly made for good copy, and it immediately elicited edged retorts from PNP officials as it tended to put the police organization in a bad light.

Bato was clearly referring to the claim this week of the Filipino-Chinese business community that there had been 56 kidnapping cases within the last 10 days. Not true, PNP Deputy Chief for Administration P/Lt. Gen. Chiquito Malayo countered quickly, citing PNP data.

Malayo averred that for July and August this year, the two months immediately preceding the inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., only four kidnapping cases had been recorded, with one abductee still unaccounted for. For the year, including the last six months of the Duterte administration, Malayo said the PNP has monitored 27 cases of kidnapping, 15 of which had been resolved and cleared and 12 still under investigation.

Nonetheless, Malayo said he welcomed the feedback from the former PNP chief, who certainly can be expected to call them to a congressional hearing to look at the real state of criminality in the country, amid claims by some sectors that the PNP may be fudging crime numbers.

Not to be outdone, National Capital Region Police Office chief P/Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo who, according to De la Rosa was the best choice to head the NCRPO and oversee the five Metro Manila police districts, chimed in and backed Malayo.

Estomo met with the Filipino-Chinese business group and assured them that their figures were “not in conformity” with PNP figures. “There is no kidnapping happening. Even in other cities, we don’t have such cases. This is not true. If we have received any complaints, all of them had been resolved by the police,” Estomo said.

This seeming blanket denial by the NCRPO chief is baffling, not just because generalizations are often always false, but because Malayo himself said there were 27 kidnapping cases this year, including four under Marcos.

Are we to assume now that all of the kidnappings were outside of Metro Manila and none involved members of the Filipino-Chinese community? Estomo certainly needs to clarify his pronouncement.

What about the cases of the over 30 missing patrons of online cockfighting? Are they even included in the tally? Is the PNP treating their disappearance as just one interconnected case?

Malayo and Estomo cannot just dismiss the figure cited by the Filipino-Chinese business group. Worse, they should not just ask them to provide proof to back their number. This should not be an exercise in proving the other party wrong.

For the PNP, it should reach out in earnest to possible victims of kidnapping that had refused to report their abductions after paying the ransom demanded. That’s what that former senator who made a career and a reputation as the nemesis of kidnappers as a police officer had done — get the trust of victims to have them talking. That’s not done with just one meeting.

As in our past interviews with Filipinos of Chinese ethnicity, they have always been the favorite targets of kidnappers since they’d rather pay than risk botched police operations resulting in the death of loved ones. To just ask them for proof without first undertaking trust-building initiatives would just make them clam up some more.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and here, Senator Bato, would be well advised to look at what’s really happening on the ground in the fight against criminality. The senator should also come out with the basis of his admonition to the police that they appear to fear the criminals more than the criminals fear them.

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