Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Monday night committed the solid support of the House of Representatives for the authorities’ intensified campaign against crime “to ensure the safety of our citizens.”
Romualdez made the announcement following a closed-door meeting at the House with Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. that he sought amid recent incidents of gun-related violence against certain local officials and hapless civilians.
“I talked to the President (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) earlier (in Cebu) and he was pleased that we are giving more attention to recent crimes,” Romualdez said during the meeting.
Abalos and Azurin reported to the Speaker that the country’s crime rate went down despite the recent high-profile incidents.
“We gave Sec. Abalos and Gen. Azurin our assurance that the House of Representatives would be open to providing the PNP with adequate funding support and other resources—as well as new legislation if necessary—to buttress the campaign against crime, which is our shared concern,” Romualdez said.
Other leaders who attended the meeting include House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe, House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, Camiguin Rep. Jayjay Romualdo, and Agusan del Norte Rep. Joboy Aquino II.
Abalos and Azurin were joined by PNP Chief of Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz, National Capital Region Police Chief Maj. Gen. Edgar Alan Okubo, and PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo.
Meanwhile, Abalos Jr. has ordered the PNP to intensify its campaign against loose firearms in the wake of three separate attacks on locally elected officials.
“There is a need to dismantle these private armed groups and confiscate their loose firearms that they use in their unlawful activities,” Abalos said.
Targets of assassination attempts this month were Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto-Adiong, Jr., Vice-Mayor Rommel Alameda of Aparri, Cagayan, and Mayor Ohto Montawal of Tunggol, Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur.
Adiong and Montawal survived the ambuscades, but Alameda was killed in an attack along with five other people.
Adiong’s four security personnel, including three policemen, also died in the attack.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the attacks did not seem related.
“As of now, we have not established or seen any link with respect to the three cases,” Fajardo told the ANC news channel.
“Nonetheless, we are beefing (up) our security, particularly the personal security detail of not only our elected officials but also appointed officials, because of these recent attacks,” she added.
Earlier, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. ordered regional police commanders to conduct threat assessments of their local chief executives.
Romualdez agreed on the necessity of an intensified drive against criminality that includes a sustained crackdown on illegal firearms and increased police visibility across the country along with ongoing programs for improved intelligence-gathering capability and training of policemen.
He said the effort to curb the incidence of crimes, especially gun-related violence, should start with strict enforcement of the law.
“Let us ensure that the law is carried out strictly, without fear or favor,” Romualdez said. “We are here to address all possible threats to public order and safety. We agreed to work together to reduce all forms of criminality and violence.”
However, the Speaker stressed the critical importance of continued collaboration between local communities and the government to ensure the success of the campaign against crime.
As part of the anti-illegal firearms campaign, Romualdez said they sought a stricter licensing system for firearms by requiring additional training on gun safety and stringent background checks on anybody who is purchasing a firearm.
In addition, the Leyte solon proposed to strengthen the government’s national database of firearms to enable authorities to effectively track the movement and ownership of firearms in the country.
“These proposals are meant to ensure a safer environment for everyone. This is our commitment to protect the citizens and promote public safety,” the Speaker said.
Likewise, he appealed to the DILG and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to see to it that cases filed against offenders of illegal possession of firearms are successfully prosecuted and that the violators are convicted and punished.
At the same time, Romualdez gave due credit to the hard work, commitment, and dedication of law enforcement agencies across the country to fight all forms of criminal activities.
“I thank our law enforcement agencies for working tirelessly to combat crime and protect our citizens,” he said.
Fajardo said the police are set to file this week complaints against suspects in the Adiong case.
Police also said they have a “promising lead” in the Alameda case. Despite the recent high-profile attacks on politicians, Azurin said the country’s crime rate dropped 19.49 percent from January to Feb. 25, compared to the same period in 2022.
Azurin 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.
Amid the decline in crime, he said the recent attacks on elected officials was “unfortunate”
He said, however, that the attacks were not “that alarming yet” and maintained they were isolated cases.
Azurin said that as of Feb. 26, Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Alameda has gathered vital evidence and promising leads.
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.