By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

(File photo)

MANILA – Nearly 78,000 police officers across the country have been deployed to ensure safe travel for motorists and commuters during the Lenten season and the summer months, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said Monday.

This is in line with the start of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims on March 23 and the observance of the Holy Week for Catholics from April 2 to 9.

Azurin has issued operational guidelines for police regional and provincial offices to implement their respective law enforcement and public safety plan for the 60-day summer holiday season.

“We are expecting a large number of travelers during this entire period, and we want to make sure that they will have a safe and enjoyable experience. We call on the public to cooperate with us and follow the rules and regulations set by the government to deter the occurrence of crime, prevent accidents and avoid unnecessary inconvenience,” he said in a statement.

Azurin ordered police units to assist the public and promptly address specific complaints through the establishment of Assistance Hubs (AHs) and Police Assistance Desks (PADs).

A total of 38,387 officers will be deployed for enhanced police presence through mobile and foot/beat patrol, while an additional 39,504 officers will be deployed for specific areas of convergence such as major thoroughfares, transportation hubs, terminals, commercial areas, and places of worship.

He added that the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will have the highest number of deployments, with a total of 9,585 police officers.

NCRPO director Maj. Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo said police officers are ready to be deployed within the streets and vital installations of the region to conduct anti-criminality operations; target hardening measures; traffic management/direction and control and other related police public safety services.

With the various activities being observed during the summer vacation (SumVac) months such as Philippine Veterans Week, Araw ng Kagitingan, Lenten season, Labor Day and Flores De Mayo, the police force will not only be seen but felt by the public in transportation hubs terminals, places of worship, malls, markets, commercial areas and parks within Metro Manila.

Okubo added the NCRPO also coordinated with other government agencies for additional support personnel, thus, deployment has been set to a total of 7,738 security forces including Metro Manila Development Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, Special Action Force, Regional Highway Patrol Unit, Regional Maritime Unit and Aviation Security Group.

The NCRPO chief urged the public to cooperate and support its anti-criminality endeavors for a peaceful and enjoyable summer vacation in the region.

Okubo appealed to the public to be alert and report to the police any suspicious person or behavior and any untoward incidents or crimes through the NCRPO text hotline numbers 0999-901-8181 or 0915-888-9181.

Meanwhile, Azurin said the country sees a continuing decline in peace and order indicators this March, particularly index crimes which dropped by 16.11 percent from 9,375 in January to March 25, 2022, to 7,865 in the same period this year.

In the anti-illegal drugs campaign, police units continue interdiction operations against big-time drug pushers and street-level drug peddlers, and marijuana farms resulting in the confiscation of a sizable stash of illegal drugs estimated to be worth more than PHP1.36 billion.

Meanwhile, cases were filed against 14,481 arrested drug offenders from January 1 to March 25, 2023.

Azurin also said the relentless nationwide operations against loose firearms resulted in the arrest of 1,993 persons and the confiscation and recovery of 6,726 firearms from January 1 to March 24.

In the same period, a total of 17,418 wanted persons have also been arrested in police operations. (PNA)