Two-wheeled killers
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2014 - 12:00am

 We know there is something seriously wrong in our country every time we see on news top government officials sitting around a table purportedly for a command conference.

At least, this has been the style of this administration of President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III since he took over the helm of government more than three years ago.

And this exactly we saw on televised news again the other day when Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas II convened an emergency command conference with top police officials at Camp Crame in Quezon City. The conference reportedly took them four hours of discussion and assessment of the government’s anti-crime campaign, if there is one.

Seated beside Roxas was Philippine National Police (PNP) director general Alan Purisima and the rest of top cops all over the country called to report to PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame. A command conference involving the entire PNP normally takes place after the traditional New Year’s call by all police chiefs coming to Camp Crame to render annual operations report to the PNP director-general.

Other than this yearly command conference, the PNP chief conducts it as the need arises. However, command conferences take place more often during election season in the country. This is because the PNP, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are deputized by the Commission on Elections to help conduct honest, orderly and peaceful elections.

This unscheduled PNP command conference last Wednesday was convened amid the spate and series of murders of high-profile victims. This is not to mention the rise in killing incidents perpetrated by tandem-riding assassins who easily get away with their heinous crimes on two wheels.

For this, the PNP leadership of Purisima has literally been placed under fire for these high profile killings and incidents, a number of which remain unsolved.

And since the PNP is directly under his supervision as DILG Secretary, Roxas himself is being made to answer for this seeming breakdown of law and order.

Amid these crimes, there has been persistent talk that the DILG Secretary and the PNP chief are at odds. Rumor has it that Roxas frowns on how Purisima goes over the head of the DILG Secretary. This is because Purisima is very close to President Aquino. He used to be a former close-in escort of Noy while assigned at the Presidential Security Group during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino.

P-Noy appointed Purisima as PNP chief in December 2012. Purisima is due for retirement in November 2015 when he reaches the age of 56.

In a live TV interview last Tuesday night, Purisima sneezed at rumors that he and Roxas are not talking to each other. On the contrary, he swore he and Roxas have been in constant communication. Roxas also denies such rift with Purisima.

During the command conference, Roxas noted with alarm the PNP report that there were 993 riding-in-tandem killing incidents recorded from May to June in Quezon City alone. Of this total, 113 happened during the first half of June.

Killed also by tandem-riding suspects recently was another provincial journalist who became the 29th media-related victim under the Aquino administration. Nilo Baculo, 67, left his office at DwIM Radyo Mindoro and was on his way home when two motorcycle-riding gunmen shot him dead in Lalud Village in Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental before noon last June 9.

When these crimes happened, we have not heard any major police operations to bring to the bars of justice the perpetrators. We have not heard any follow-up operations or developments to crack these unsolved crimes. Malacañang admitted last Wednesday that police authorities solve only one in three reported crimes.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. tried to explain in a press briefing at the Palace that keeping peace and order remains a top priority of the Aquino administration.

In fact, Coloma cited, the PNP is now recruiting an additional 18,500 policemen and 13,000 civilian personnel. But still, he conceded, this is not enough to meet the ideal police ratio to total population of the country.

In 1986, he noted, we had 50 million people in the country when the PNP had 125,000 policemen, or one officer per 400 citizens. At present, the 148,000-strong police force serves 97 million Filipinos.

Curiously, we have gathered reports that the DILG Secretary was also elsewhere when major crime incidents took place. We are not saying he should have been in office at the DILG to help prevent crimes. But his official activities outside the office could be suspected to boost his political stock.  

On May 11, Roxas was in Isabela on a market tour and had meeting with Liga ng mga Barangay and went around to distribute checks purportedly for livelihood assistance. It was on that day that gunmen on motorcycle went on a killing spree and five people were killed in different places in Fairview, Quezon City.
     On June 7, three people, including Mayor Ernesto Balolong Jr. of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan and his police escort were gunned down. A member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), the mayor was killed reportedly after he had some political wrangling with certain people. Roxas, the president-on-leave of the LP, was in Bohol the previous day with fellow LP, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad to distribute checks.

On June 12, the DILG Secretary flew to Naga City in Camarines Sur to join President Aquino for Independence Day rites held there. Later on that day, international race car driver Enzo Pastor was killed in Quezon City, likewise by tandem-riding suspects.

I always cringe every time I see motorcycle-riding duos weaving in and out of the road. They have become not only major traffic hazards but we have come to suspect them as potential killers on board two wheels.

Why can’t the PNP match these tandem-riding criminals with their own cops on motorcycles?

Unfortunately, we only see these cops on motorcycles as police escorts of government officials. Worse, we see these cops on motorcycle escorting funeral cortege.

If Roxas ends this crime binge by two-wheeled killers, it could help him pick up (no malice intended) his political stock in time for 2016.

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