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The Philippines in 2010 and 2016

Turn on the radio or television and tune in on the prime-time news. More often than not, killings, abductions, theft, rape, robbery, and other violent crimes are among the major stories of the day.

Crimes are also becoming more violent, and the reason usually cited by authorities is the involvement of illegal drugs. Thus, we hear stories about people under the influence of drugs killing or abusing their own families.

Criminals are also becoming more daring. Under the bright light of day, or in the presence of CCTV cameras, lawless elements kill their victims at close range or rob an innocent pedestrian and casually walk away as if nothing happened.

There is a growing perception among people that the peace and order situation continues to deteriorate. So is the drug problem.

Because of this, it’s understandable that people look at statistics showing a decline in the crime rate with skepticism. Last August, newspapers published statistics from Philippine National Police (PNP) about crime incidence during the first six months of 2015.

According to the PNP, the number of crimes in Metro Manila declined by 60 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.

However, the number of crimes throughout the country increased by 46 percent this year compared to last year. That, in my view, indicates that criminal activities are increasing even in the provinces; in the past, we looked at areas far from the big cities as peaceful communities.

According to the PNP, index crimes (nationwide) alone went up by 37.3 percent to 352,321 during the first six months of 2015 from 256,592 cases reported in the same period last year. Index crimes include murder, homicide, rape, robbery and theft.

The number of murders increased to 7,245 in the first six months of 2015, up from 5,004 in the same period last year. Homicides went up to 6,607 this year from 4,091 last year.

The peace and order situation in the Philippines is also being monitored by foreign governments to help their investors in making decisions about putting up businesses here.

In an online report titled “Overseas Business Risk – Philippines,” dated July 2015, the British government noted the high incidence of violent crimes, including those involving firearms, in the Philippines.

“Street ‘crime’ and robberies, such as bag snatching or pick pocketing, are prevalent, even in well-lit and busy city areas,” the report further said.

On the drug problem, the Philippines is not alone. In its 2015 World Drug Report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that a total of 246 million people used an illicit drug in 2013. The UNODC also reported an estimated 187,100 drug-related deaths in 2013.

In the Philippines, even law enforcement officers and government officials have been involved in the illegal drug problem. Consider the following:

• Last September 21, a policeman was among 10 people who were arrested in a raid on 12 shabu dens beside the police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

• In 2014, a total of 190 government officials and employees were arrested for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Prison walls have not prevented drug traffickers from plying their illegal trade. Last January, the Department of Justice said it had obtained evidence proving that drug lords serving sentences inside the New Bilibid Prisons were able to conduct drug transactions.

A report from the PDEA, which I cited in a previous column, said 8,629, or 20.51 percent of the country’s 42,065 barangays were considered as drug-affected. Based on data gathered by PDEA, the National Capital Region (NCR) was the most affected, with 92.10 percent of its barangays affected.

In this series, I listed only five problems outside the economy – the China problem, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the communist insurgency, peace and order and illegal drugs – which the next president must face right after the 2016 elections. There may be other issues, but the ones I discussed will already keep the new chief executive’s hands full.

Whoever takes over the seat in Malacañang will need a very good team and all the support available to resolve these problems, for the sake of people and country within the next six years.

For comments/feedback email to: mbv.secretariat@gmail.com or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph) (SENATOR MANNY VILLAR)