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the September 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48,
The Philippines: Season of Crime
Abu Sayyaf Attacks
Bill Huang, CyberDyaryo
(on-line daily), Manila, The Philippines, June 21, 2001.
the midst of this latest mad season of criminal activity [the
Abu Sayyaf, a rebel Muslim group, has escalated its kidnapping
in recent monthsWPR] comes the word from Malacañang
palace that the crime rate has actually gone down in the five
months since the administration of President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo has been in office.
CIA World Factbook)
The palace reported a 10-percent overall decline, which included
a 37.5- percent decline in kidnapping-for-ransom casesdown
to 30 from 48 over the same period last yearand a 50.34-percent
decline in car-theft casesdown to 762 from 1,535. While
were inclined to accept the figures as truewe
dont think they were plucked from thin airwe do
wonder just how accurate they are.
We have no special sources of additional information. But
we do wonder whether the figures we have been given reflect
what is the implicit picture of a nation beginning to heed
the call to law and order.
For one thing, the figures were for the first five months
of this year and last, so do the Sipadan and Dos Palmas adventures
of last year and this, respectively, cancel each other out?
Was the kidnapping of Jeffrey Schilling in August of last
year treated as a separate casewhich would have left
it out of last years statisticsor did it get tacked
on to the original kidnapping in April of last year, as part
of a continuing crime?
And on the same note, while this latest misadventure in Palawan
actually took place at the end of May, do the two subsequent
hostage-taking incidents at a hospital in Patikul and on a
nearby farm count as kidnappings outside the period of comparison,
or once again, do we tack them on to this years Abu
Sayyaf caper as part of this continuing crime?
What about the May 1 attempted siege of Malacañang?
[Filipino demonstrators gathered to protest former President
Joseph Estradas arrest.WPR] Did it actually
make it to the palaces crime statistics at all? Our
big problem with the National Anti-Crime Commission is not
as much the hidden premise that five months do not a year
make as it is the bigger picture of weakness and indecision
within the Arroyo administration.
At this point, perhaps we should explain ourselves, lest we
be accused of playing politics with crime by trying to rate
criminal activityand the other side of that coin, public
safety and well-beingusing the arbitrary standard of
political administrations. Its not our intention to
conclude that one political administration was or is safer
than the other. Not on the basis of these statistics, anyway.
The question is: If crime is really on the way down during
the Arroyo administration, as the palace would like to imply,
why is it even bothering to create yet another superbody,
the National Anti-Crime Commission, to fight crime?
The president herself pointed out that a major problem in
fighting crime, Philippine-style, has been the infighting
among law-enforcement organizations. Extending that thought,
we not only have the police and the National Bureau of Investigation,
we have the military and all its spin-off groupsthe
Presidential Security Group, Aviation Security Command, to
name but a few.
Is the president saying that the problem of infighting among
law-enforcement organizations is a larger problem than the
problems posed by the criminals and their crimes? And if,
for the sake of argument, she admits to that, is the solution
yet another layer of management above the line agencies?
If anything, we think its the existing levels of management
atop and above the law-enforcement agencies, all those political
appointees, who have posed the biggest problem in enforcing
To be fair, the Arroyo administrations problem here
is not unique; it didnt invent the Philippine governments
apparent lack of political will. But its own contributions
to the ledger of examples of lacking political will, in its
short five months of existence, are already worth noting.
Judging from the administrations wishy-washy stance
on the issues surrounding the arrest and detention of deposed
and disgraced former President Joseph Estrada and its inability
to get to the bottomor the top, if you willof
the Dacer-Corbito kidnap-murder [public relations executive
Salvador Bubby Dacer and his driver Manuel Corbito
were abducted and murdered, allegedly by former police chief
Panfilo Ping Lacson, in AprilWPR],
it seems to be signaling that if you are audacious enough
to call its initial bluff of tough talk, you can literally
get away with anything, even murder.
And the people it has been trying in the media have not only
called the bluff, they have tried to raise the stakes, as
is evidenced by the attempted May 1 siege of Malacañang.
The administrations apparent inability or unwillingness
to bring people to justice for their role in this pathetic
attempt to manufacture a populist uprising speaks volumes
of its spine and resolve.
After doing its darndest to try these cases in the mediaand
failingthe Arroyo administration is now faced with the
unpleasant task of prosecuting them in court and actually
presenting evidence that will stand up to legal scrutiny.
We can only wonder how a National Anti-Crime Commission can
help it accomplish these most basic objectives.
In its attempt to oversee the fight against crime, the Arroyo
administration may be overlooking the criminals. And that,
in the proper sense of the word, is an oversight. In fact,
it is truly a criminal oversight.