By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – The country’s crime rate has dropped by 19.49 percent from January to Feb. 25 this year as compared to the same period in 2022, amid the spate of attacks against local officials this month.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. on Monday said there is continuing decline in peace and order indicators, particularly index crime, from 6,141 in January to Feb. 25 in 2022 down to 4,944 for the same period this year.

“I had been reporting every week na sabi ko nga pababa ang crime environment sa ating bansa (as I said the crime environment in our country is going down). It was unfortunate that there has been shooting incidents against our elected local officials wherein the PNP is now working on the double to determine the identities of the suspects and bring them to justice,” Azurin told reporters in Camp Crame.

Azurin said the spate of attacks on local government executives is not that alarming yet as he maintained that these are isolated cases.

“I would say na hindi pa alarming kasi dini-determine nga natin dahil iba-iba ‘yung mga situation, iba-iba ‘yung mga reason bakit pinatay itong mga ito (which is not yet alarming because the situations are different, the reasons why these people were killed are different). Sabi ko nga (As I said) it’s either political, personal, business rivalry or other reason why these killings are happening,” he said.

The spate of attacks against three local government officials in less than a week — Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. on Feb. 17; Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda on Feb. 19; and Maguindanao del Sur mayor Ohto Montawal on Feb. 22. Among the three, Alameda was killed.

Azurin said that as of Feb. 26, Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Alameda has gathered vital sets of evidence and promising leads.

“While in SITG Montawal, we are on the double conducting backtracking of CCTV footages and ACG is assisting by enhancing the footage in order to identify the suspects,” Azurin said.

Azurin said investigators already have leads on these cases, particularly on the identification of the suspects.

“We are optimistic that the three SITGs will solve their respective cases at the soonest time and bring the suspects behind bars,” he added.

These incidents prompted Azurin to order all heads of the 17 police regional offices to conduct an assessment of security threats against local officials in their areas of jurisdiction.

So far, no politician has come forward yet about a possible threat to their lives, Azurin said.

“We are hoping na mapabilis nga itong threat assessment so that we would know whether to provide additional security sa kanila or status quo muna kung ano ‘yung present security na naka-detail sa kanila (We are hoping that this threat assessment will be accelerated so that we would know whether to provide additional security to them or status quo on the present security that is detailed to them),” Azurin said.

Under the PNP’s rules, elected officials are only allowed to have two security personnel from the PNP-Police Security and Protection Group.

However, Azurin said officials can be secured by the local police even if they get out of their areas of jurisdiction.

Azurin said he would attend the emergency meeting with House Speaker Martin Romualdez who called officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the PNP Monday afternoon.

Azurin has also ordered police field units to intensify their operations against organized crime and gun-for-hire groups. (PNA)