Malaybalay city gov't urged to beef up police force to address killings

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 November) – Augmenting the local police force topped the list of proposals voiced out by various groups and individuals to put a stop to a rash of killings in the city the latest victim of which was a college instructor at the Bukidnon State University.

This and other suggestions surfaced in a consultation called by City Councilor Mya Analene Rosos Thursday, apparently in response to the killing last Nov. of BSU instructor Jay Jaspher Santo Nino.

Rosos, chair of the committee on human rights of the city council, said the participants cited at least 20 suggestions. She said she would call for a follow-up consultation.

“We need more police and CVO (civilian volunteer organization) visibility with right scheduling,” Dr. Mercedes Gloria Ramos of BSU said in the meeting.

Lawyer Burt Estrada said in the same forum that the city government must also find ways to fund the hiring of more CVOs and the hiring of barangay auxiliary police.

“The city can afford to hire many job order employees, they can hire police auxiliaries that it can train and deploy on full-time basis,” he added.

But a participant who asked not to be named said that the police auxiliaries might just be used as a barangay captain’s private army.

Businessman Reuel Gallo said CVOs must be well-trained and well-compensated.

He said the barangays must have functional vehicles for emergency use.

He also asked the police to suggest to the city government where street lights should be prioritized in case there’s no enough fund for this purpose.

Jean Maputi, of the Malaybalay City Federation of Women’s Organizations agreed that putting up street lights could serve as a deterrent to crimes.

She likewise suggested imposing a curfew for minors.

Rosos said the city has already approved a curfew ordinance but that it has to be implemented well.

Another participant suggested the activation of the Barangay Information Network, a community intelligence arm.

Suggestions also flowed from cyberspace, including comments in the social network site Facebook.

“How can we help to ask for more policemen for our city? It’s high time to improve your agency’s services. We, the people of Malaybalay City will accept no less,” Dr. Janett Molina told Police S/Supt. Erwin Bayani Meneses in an open letter written on Nov. 25, which she posted on Facebook.

Molina described Malaybalay’s 74 policemen as “overworked and understaffed,” adding their number is insufficient to solve the cases.

She said 14 of them are office personnel assigned as desk officers, four are officials, four are division chiefs, and the rest are those who actually respond to incidents.

She said that with this set up, the ratio is roughly 1:1600 (one police officer to 1600 people). The city police only have two L300 vehicles, an Altis car and a jeep.

“In all honesty, is this enough for the security and safety of Malaybalay? Aren’t we presumptuous in placing our lives on their hands?” Molina asked.

City police chief Sr. Supt. Erwin Bayani Meneses admitted their number is insufficient.

He told MindaNews the ideal ratio is one policeman for every 500 people. But instead, Malaybalay only has one policeman for every 3,000 people. Last year, he said, the ratio was 1:2400.

Meneses said via SMS that if Malaybalay has 200 policemen it would be enough.

Lawyer Rowena Arangcon said the city government must invest in close circuit television cameras (CCTV) and establishments too should put up the cameras inside and outside their buildings.

“Before issuing business permit, this must be included among the requirements,” she said, although she noted that it is expensive.

She said it is up to the city council to propose what scheme can be used.

Iglesia ni Cristo minister Roland Ucab cited suggested the clustering of barangays as a basis for the deployment of policemen.

Broadcaster Ana Ninfa Bago Caballero urged for the strict implementation of the prohibition on serving liquors to minors and providing for heavy penalties against violators.

She also cited the alleged lack of action by the city government on the complaints against a bar in Barangay Sumpong where customers reportedly often create trouble.

The Sumpong barangay council and a city task force have recommended the closure of the establishment unless some adjustments were made.

Caballero further suggested a 24-hour duty for social workers at the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), in addition to embark on an information drive for public security.

A representative from the CSWDO said they could not function on a 24-hour basis as they only have five social workers.

Anthony Rubio, a village councilman of Brgy. Kalasungay, said the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) must be convened for an emergency meeting.

Lawyer Albert Lagamon called the attention of the group to the lack of Regional Trial Courts in the province. He said Bukidnon, which has the same case load as Misamis Oriental’s, only has four courts compared to the latter’s 19.

This, he said, has affected the administration of justice in the province.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he told MindaNews via telephone.

He said the public should help petition for the opening of new RTCs. He said in the meeting the province should have at least six new RTCs.

Lagamon, one of the provincial government’s legal counsels, said criminality has been a problem of the city long before.

“It is not just a problem of the city government and the police. It is our problem,” he added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)