The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.
— The late former Chicago mayor Richard Joseph Daley
POLICEWOMAN Sergeant Karen Borromeo, 38, was arrested for firing her gun in Malabon City on New Year’s Eve. She now faces criminal and administrative charges and dismissal proceedings for the infraction.
As a police officer, we realize that Borromeo should have been fully aware of her misdeed but the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership has assumed that her illegal discharge of firearm is something personal to her.
“We didn’t even expect that she would take such an action. She is probably drunk or maybe she was lured by her colleagues in the area or maybe she just like to do something that she never thought that would catch attention and eventually prompt a concerned citizen to report it,” PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said.
Still, this is something Borromeo should be responsible for.
Despite what most policemen would probably view as a minor incident, there are developments in the police community that should be highlighted. For one, the nine-month community quarantine prompted by the coronavirus pandemic is being credited with a significant decline in crime volume.
Still, some experts expressed fear that the lockdown had aggravated abuses largely caused by restrictions on movement and scant resources.
Data from the national police records showed that the volume of what the PNP said was eight focus crimes nationwide had dropped by 45 percent during the 275 days of Covid-19 lockdown enforcement. These included murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, motorcycle theft and car theft.
The nation’s police force said only 27,442 crimes were recorded from March 17, during the early days of a strict enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), until Dec. 16, compared with 49,774 crimes from June 15, 2019 to March 16, 2020, the day before ECQ came into play in Metro Manila.
In an interview PNP deputy chief for administration Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar attributed the low crime volume due to fewer people on the streets as the public was required to stay home to reduce, if not stop, the transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 or SARS Cov2 that causes Covid-19.
Eleazar also noted that checkpoints at every border nationwide helped in detecting criminal activities or arresting criminals.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asian Division senior researcher Carlos Conde agrees with the PNP, as he pointed out that the decrease in crime volume during the lockdown is ‘not (only) disputable’ but ‘logical’ because of maximum police visibility.
Conde cited how local government officials, who acted as force multipliers, doubled the number of security forces during the pandemic.
But despite the low crime volume, he said it is also “not surprising” that domestic violence, child abuses and other human rights violations would occur in a lockdown environment.
The human rights researcher said the Covid-19 pandemic “worsened the environment” that the government’s narcotics crackdown started in 2016 because of the public’s limited capacity and willingness to report its situation to authorities.
Conde said the level of public fear of the drug war doubled in the pandemic because people became ‘sitting ducks’ in a lockdown environment.
According to the Council for the Welfare of Children (CEC), the implementation of community quarantine also ‘increased’ children’s exposure to abuse because of limited help or assistance.
CWC, however, disclosed that data could belie this as there could be a decline in reported cases of abuse because of limited access to internet and restrictions in transportation that would allow victims to report to authorities.
And just like abuse against minors, the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) disclosed that cases of violence against women worsened during the lockdown.
Before the pandemic, PCW said one in three women experienced sexual abuse, mostly by an ‘intimate partner.’ However, during the pandemic, cases of violence against women decreased possibly due to lack of access to communications during the lockdown.
In April 2020, Human Rights Watch expressed alarm over the “abusive treatment” by some police officers and local officials who enforced strict curfew and quarantine rules against children during the pandemic.
The New York-based human rights watchdog cited a report wherein two children in Cavite province were locked in a coffin for violating curfew. Meanwhile, five young people were also locked inside a dog cage as punishment by local officials in Santa Cruz, Laguna province.
In July just last year, Fabel Pineda, 15, was on her way to file an act of lasciviousness complaint when two motorcycle-riding men shot her dead in Ilocos Sur. Two policemen, believed to be behind the killing of Pineda, were already placed in restrictive custody and charged with murder.
In a previous report, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) revealed that it was swamped with complaints of human rights abuses during the early months of the lockdown. It received 500 complaints ranging from torture, inhumane and degrading penalties perpetrated by local government officials and lawmen enforcing quarantine protocols.
In view of the foregoing, police abuses have greatly contributed in the distrust between citizens and law enforcers. (AI/MTVN)