The ‘ninja cops’ stain
The widespread public belief in the prevalence of “ninja cops”—policemen who sell, for their personal gain, the illegal drugs they have confiscated from their operations—is a serious stain on the reputation of the Philippine National Police. This belief was held by four of every five Filipinos in December (“Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 78% of Filipinos believe, and 7% do not believe, the accusation that there are ‘ninja cops’ in the police force,” www.sws.org.ph, 1/7/20).
The survey also found 50 percent believing, and only 13 percent disbelieving, the charge that former PNP chief Oscar Albayalde was a protector of ninja cops. (I doubt that this attitude toned down after Mr. Albayalde retired from the PNP without being formally charged of any offense. I think people are already inured to the administration’s habit of merely slapping the hands of erring policemen.)
In general, the people perceive that the number of ninja cops is large. Sixty-seven percent say that ninja cops among the police are Very Many (Talagang madami) or else Somewhat Many (Medyo madami); only 31 percent say they are A Few (Kaunti lang) or Almost None (Halos wala).
The exposure, in recent Senate investigations, of “ninja cops” must have reinforced public doubts, as surveyed last September, of policemen’s claims of self-defense to justify extrajudicial killings (“Third Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 29% of Pinoys do not believe police claims of ‘nanlaban’, 26% believe, and 45% are undecided; perception of whether illegal drug use is rising or falling is what drives public rating of administration’s war on the drugs,” www.sws.org.ph, 12/22/19). I see the 45-percent plurality of undecided as a strong reluctance to accept the excuses of the police. The net belief of -3 means a balance of opinion on EJKs that leans against the police.
These negative survey findings on specific aspects of police/drug-war performance (or a specific policeman) should not be generalized into a booing of the police as a whole. Neither is it proper to interpret a positive survey rating of the police/drug-war as a whole as a cheering of every aspect of police/drug-war operations (or any specific policeman). The people appreciate the police for many more things besides their security against illegal drugs.
SWS tracks public safety in two ways. First, it surveys if any family member has been victimized by a common crime in the past six months. The average quarterly percentages of victimized families in recent years were: 2010 12.5, 2011 10.3, 2012 9.0, 2013 8.5, 2014 7.5, 2015 6.8, 2016 8.2, 2017 6.1, 2018 7.6, and 2019Q1-Q3 6.7. Thus, victimization fell steadily in 2010-15, and later turned bumpy (“Third Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Families victimized by common crimes subside to 5.6; fear of burglary in the neighborhood rises; fear of unsafe streets at night and visibility of drug addicts stable,” www.sws.org.ph, 10/30/19).
Secondly, SWS asks survey respondents if their homes are in danger of burglary, if their streets are unsafe at night, and if there are many drug addicts around. In 2010-19, those fearful of burglary have always been high, fluctuating between 52 and 60 percent; they were 59 percent in 2019Q3. Those with unsafe neighborhood streets fluctuated between 43 and 50 percent; they were 47 percent in 2019Q3.
The average percentage finding drug addicts visible ranged from 38 to 52 percent in 2010-15, and spiked to 56 in 2016. It fell to 45 in 2017 and 40 in 2018; it was 38 in 2019Q3, or back to its starting point in late 2010. This shows improvement in the past three years, but no gain from a 10-year perspective.
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