The Philippines is one of 186-member countries of INTERPOL, or the International Criminal Police Organization, which aims to facilitate international police cooperation and combat international crime. For each INTERPOL member country, National Central Bureaus (NCBs) are created to serve as the contact point of INTERPOL and its member countries which may require assistance with overseas investigations and apprehension of fugitives. The NCB is typically part of a member country’s national police agency or investigation service. The NCB for Philippines is based in Manila, which is overseen by the PCTC.
Garcia said the National Central Bureau-Manila recently acquired clearance from INTERPOL to activate a sub-bureau in this city as well as in the cities of Cebu and Davao to address the need to rapidly respond to transnational crimes being committed in the southern part of the country.
“The southern border, particularly that of Zamboanga City, is very prone to cross-border or transnational crime activities due to its proximity to other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia,” he explained. Zamboanga City is an international port of entry for many commercial shipping lines and airlines.
Transnational crimes include terrorism, money laundering, human, drug, money, and firearm trafficking, fraud, cybercrimes, environmental crimes, intellectual property rights crime, theft of artifacts/cultural heritage, and piracy and armed robbery against ships.
Human trafficking is considered one of the major issues of the country, and according to a 2006 United States Department of State Human Rights Report, estimates on the number of Philippine women trafficked range from 300,000 to 400,000 to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, North America, and Europe.
“That’s why we need to equip the PCTC field office here with direct access to international information,” he added.
Garcia explained that with the activation of the NCB Zamboanga Sub-Bureau this April, the field office will have real-time access to INTERPOL information like anti-terrorism order of battle, internal registry of stolen travel documents, international wanted list for stolen vehicles, database of lost persons, and database of forensic evidences that include DNA and fingerprint information. Currently only NCB-Manila has direct access to INTERPOL database, and PCTC field offices have to coordinate with the head office to acquire such information.
“Yearly, about 14 million passports and travel documents are stolen worldwide. If we are directly linked to the communication system of INTERPOL, we can easily track down and capture fugitives,” he said.
“The world is indeed getting smaller for criminals,” he added.
Col. Alan Arrojado, chief of the PCTC Western Mindanao field office said, “this will enhance operations of our law enforcement forces against transnational crimes here in Western Mindanao, and we can rapidly respond to criminal reports.”
The seminar is part of PCTC Western Mindanao field office’s efforts to orient and update law enforcement bodies like the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, National Bureau Investigation, and National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency on transnational crimes and international law enforcement concerns. (Angel Tiamson-Saceda/MindaNews)