MANILA, Philippines – National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Roberto Rosales said among the Metro Manila police’s accomplishments he is proud of is the neutralization of the Alvin Flores robbery gang and 219 other crime gangs in 2009, but said he is still not satisfied and vowed to do more next year.
“I will only be satisfied with our performance against criminality when there is no more crime incidents occurring in the streets of Metro Manila,” he told The STAR in an interview.
Rosales wants to bring crime in Metro Manila to its lowest ebb in the next few months before focusing the NCRPO’s effort into making the coming May 2010 elections the most peaceful in recent years.
The neutralization of the crime gangs led to the arrest of 268 suspected members and the killing of three others in an encounter.
A total of 4,041 fugitives, 20 of whom were listed in the Most Wanted Persons of police stations in Metro Manila, were sent behind bars.
The NCRPO also procured and installed surveillance cameras in commercial centers and areas of convergence in the metropolis and tapped technology to fight crime.
Rosales credited the busting of the Alvin Flores gang for the low crime incidence in Metro Manila this Christmas season.
Flores’ gang is tagged in at least 28 bank, payroll and bank client, and mall robberies in Metro Manila and its nearby provinces since 2008.
Flores himself and the gang’s three suspected members were killed in Cebu while two others, Dennis Serquina, and former Army soldier Jose Warlito Rodriquito, were arrested by the NCRPO operatives in Pangasinan.
Rosales said he placed the NCRPO’s 15,000-strong personnel on heightened alert since September, deploying 75 percent of police officers on the streets and the move paid off with fewer crimes recorded.
“There are even days when what we recorded were only three petty crimes,” he said.
In the campaign against illegal drugs, the NCRPO arrested 2,346 persons and seized P11,459,183.45 worth of shabu and dried marijuana leaves.
A total of 119 suspected car thieves were arrested and 100 motor vehicles and 156 motorcycles recovered by the NCRPO.
Metro cops turn to high-tech devices
When he assumed command of the NCRPO last April, Rosales immediately set his sights on employing modern technology in traditional police functions such as patrol, intelligence and investigation.
He said the use of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, the Global Positioning System (GPS), Blackberry mobile phones, and among other support systems such as Data Center and Digital Backhaul, makes the conduct and supervision of police operations better and faster.
These technologies were integrated into the country’s and the Philippine National Police (PNP) first full-scale Command, Control and Communication Center – dubbed as Regional Tactical Operation and Intelligence Center (RTOIC) – based at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, the headquarters of the NCRPO.
The RTOIC was set up through Rosales’ initiative with President Arroyo donating the seed money of P10 million. The rest of the P60 million funding were donations from “friends” of the NCRPO.
The RTOIC has a central monitoring facility consisting of 42 40-inch TV monitors which can be used individually to look at more monitoring points or collectively to observe larger areas of consideration.
The system can accommodate as much as 2,000 monitoring stations (CCTV cameras) whose video feed are directed from the source to the RTOIC through a digital backhaul.
Response time reduced
Rosales said the CCTV systems are strategically located in various crime-prone areas, major thoroughfares and busy intersections, transport terminals, shopping malls, and other places of convergence.
Aside from monitoring major events, the CCTVs have been useful in conducting follow-up operations and investigation of crime incidents.
“Several crime incidents were promptly acted upon and solved because the video recording of the crime incidents were used as evidence of the criminal act and facilitated the easy identification of the perpetrator,” Rosales said.
The installation of GPS transceivers in the NCRPO’s patrol cars had further improved the response time, as well as the appropriateness of response of the police in reported crime incidents, Rosales noted.
Based on his observation, the average response time of the police has been pushed to about three minutes, 28 seconds, a marked improvement compared to the average of about seven minutes months back.
Another benefit derived from the use of GPS transceivers was the significant reduction of mulcting by policemen.
“Knowing that their location and movements are being monitored have prevented the aberrant practice and instead created a greater sense of accountability of policemen assigned at mobile patrol cars,” Rosales said.
He noted that the GPS played a key role in the resolution of a hijacking incident that took place last Dec. 11 along C-3 Road in Caloocan City.
Upon receipt of the incident report, the NCRPO closely coordinated with the truck owner and kept track of the vehicle, eventually guiding police officers to the truck’s location through the use of a GPS transceiver.
The truck was found abandoned but its Nestle products cargo was recovered intact.
“It took police operatives only 15 minutes to recover the hijacked cargo from the time it was reported,” Rosales said, adding that in the past it would take policemen several weeks to solve the crime.
The five district directors, 37 station commanders, heads of intelligence units, and other police operation units of the NCRPO were issued Blackberry mobile phones.
The mobile phones have access to the database of the Land Transportation Office, NBI, Highway Patrol Group and the Firearm and Explosive Office.
The use of these mobile phones lead to the significant reduction of car theft incidents in Metro Manila from the average of six vehicles stolen per day to three per day. “In the months of October and November, there are even days when no car theft incident had been reported,” said Rosales.
The NCRPO chief noted that the full potentials of technologies like the CCTV, GPS, and Blackberry mobile phones have yet to be attained.
But he pointed out that even at this early stage, NCRPO officials noted “drastic improvements in our operation and the way we are enabled to administer our daily activities.
“We believe that we could further improve them (police operations) if we can fully implement the use of these technologies in all police units and at all levels,” said Rosales as he urged Verzosa to allocate funding for the continuity of the project’s day-to-day operation.
Station chiefs told: Solve shootings or get sacked
To improve the performance of the 37 station commanders in Metro Manila, Rosales is embarking on a program to rate them by making them solve crimes in programs they themselves prepare.
The NCRPO chief and his aides are preparing parameters for the rating system they intend to distribute to the 37 station commanders before the year ends.
“I would ask them how they would manage to solve unsolved crimes, especially involving shooting incidents,” said Rosales, adding that the station commanders would devise plans and programs how to accomplish their goals.
But the document would also include the signature of the station commander, who must agree to be relieved from their post if they fail to carry out the plan.
“It’s time for us to relieve non-performing station commanders and replaced them with qualified and hardworking police officers,” Rosales said.
Lack of rescue vessels
The weakness of the NCRPO’s search and rescue capabilities was exposed when tropical storm “Ondoy” struck the country last Sept. 26, flooding the cities of Marikina, Pasig, Taguig, and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros.
Rosales admitted they were unprepared to deal with a problem of such magnitude. The Philippine Navy played key roles in succeeding search and rescue operations as the NCRPO took the back seat.
To make up for their “weakness,” Rosales tasked his men to secure badly damaged areas and evacuation centers in Metro Manila on a 24-hour basis to prevent looting.
And to be ready for future calamity, Rosales hired the services of Bataan boatmakers, who constructed at least 11 wooden boats costing P1.6 million. Mounted with engines used in mini-buses, the wooden boats can carry at least three tons of relief goods.
Once again, “friends” of the NCRPO donated six rubber boats, also for use during calamities.
The NCRPO also started training on search and rescue policemen from the five police districts and at least 120 personnel have already graduated.
Rosales also wanted various maritime schools and barangay officials trained for the purpose of search and rescue operations for immediate deployment in times of calamities.
“I can now declare that we at the NCRPO are ready to deal with problems brought about by typhoons,” said Rosales, adding that the wooden boats and rubber boats under their disposal can be loaned for the use of local government units in other parts of the country in time of typhoons.
Preparing for the 2010 polls
Rosales aired his full support for Verzosa’s directive to abolish city hall and municipal hall police detachments nationwide.
He said the directive would “level the playing field among candidates, especially here in Metro Manila, and it is in the right direction in our aim to make the coming elections the most peaceful in recent years,” he said.
The NCRPO is also in the thick of their efforts to dismantle so-called “private armies’ of politicians in the metropolis.
The NCRPO is taking photographs and video footage of suspected politicians’ “private armies.”
“We are validating the reports on private armies of politicians. As soon as we gather enough evidence, we would dismantle them,” he said.
The NCRPO may have their hands full in the war against criminality and in the conduct of election duties next year, but Rosales declared they are ready and prepared for the worst. –Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star)