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Statistics on crime

Every Pacquiao fight results in a drop in traffic and crime because everyone is at home or in a public space glued to a television set and rooting for the “Pambansang Kamao.” I would have thought the recent papal visit would produce the same effect, but it seems that in some places the incidence of petty crime and robbery increased because the people were out and about lining the papal route, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis and receive a blessing. Another reason for the spike in petty crime during that period in January was the fact that most of the police in Metro Manila were fielded to protect the Pope from assassins and overzealous fans.

This early I am excited to read and file the Philippine Crime Statistics for 2015 so that I can compare and contrast the numbers with those compiled during the American and Spanish colonial periods.

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We have a bigger population now compared with that in the mid-19th century, and we have a wider menu of crimes to choose from. Reading the Correctional and Crime Statistics for 1846 and 1847 published by the Belgian Consul Pierre Joseph Lannoy in his book “Îles Philippines: De leur situation ancienne et actuelle” or “The Philippine Islands: their situation then and now” (1849) is quite fascinating. The list is surely incomplete because it only records crimes brought to the Royal Audiencia and those meted out some form of punishment. Crimes for which there was no complaint or crimes settled out of court do not form part of the record.

In 1846 the following crimes and offenses were brought to the Royal Audiencia: assault (12), attack and ill treatment (58), carrying prohibited weapons (16), adultery (2), rape (13), offense relating to abuse of power by government employees in the exercise of their functions (19), poisoning (2), escape from prisons and presidios (16), falsification of public documents (4), falsification of private deeds (1), homicide (166), blows and bad treatment (10), blows resulting in wounds (102), injury (1), immorality and scandalous acts (5), incest (1), arson (9), perjury (1), theft with arms (5), theft through swindling (201), resistance to authority (14), abduction or kidnapping (16), pillage (75), sedition and rebellion (1), and vagabondage and bad conduct (4).

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I cannot explain why there were more punishments meted out than crimes reported in 1846, but the punishment for those listed were: strangulation or garrote (11), condemned to presidio with hard labor (438), correctional detention (250), whipping in public (43), exhibition (1), suspension and deprivation of work (13), fines and pecuniary damages (39), and banishment (2). The same pattern appears in the statistics for 1847, there were more punishments than cases filed.

Crimes brought to the Royal Audiencia in 1847 were: attack (6), adultery (1), carrying of prohibited arms (5), arbitrary arrest (48), robbery attempt (1), abuse of power (10), rape with force (7), simple rape (4), false witness and perjury (1), escape from prison and presidio (16), falsification of private deeds (5), assault and ill treatment (12), homicide (12), wounds and contusions (117), immorality and scandal (11), arson (6), incest (2), infanticide (1), theft, embezzlement and swindling (184), resistance and lack of respect to authority (15), abduction (11), sacrilegious theft (2), theft in band with arms (5), suicide (3), pillage (67), superstition (1), sedition and outbreaks (4) and vagabondage and bad conduct (8).

Comparing the two lists made me wonder why there was only one mention of a robbery attempt and no entries for robberies—unless those were classified under theft? It is significant that there are no figures for murder and only one for infanticide. There was one recorded case for superstition, which generates more questions than answers: What is this, and should it be considered a crime? Also in 1847, there was no case of falsification of public documents. Was this because all the forgers were punished the year before?

The crime statistics may be obsolete and boring but these are a mirror to the life and times of our heroes. The numbers are far from complete, and I am sure there are more data waiting to be mined in the Philippine National Archives in Manila as well as the many foreign libraries and archives that have preserved Philippine materials, like the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, the Archivo Historico Nacional in Madrid, and the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico. Hidden in those dusty legajos or bundles are old documents written with a script, symbols and abbreviations that one can learn to read with patience and constant practice.

Fortunately, the historian looking into crime can rely on the pioneering work of Dr. Sixto de los Angeles (1875-1945), who I consider the “Father of Forensic Investigation in the Philippines.” In 1919 De los Angeles published “Estudios sobre antropologia criminal en las islas Filipinas” (“Studies in Criminal Anthropology in the Philippine Islands”) based on significant data like cranial measurements of criminals in Bilibid in 1916.

De los Angeles classified criminals by age, gender, height, weight, ethnolinguistic group, etc. His work reveals an inquiring mind that tried to put order in his data and find patterns that could be used against criminal behavior. He used statistics to keep the innocent from becoming crime statistics as well.

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TAGS: crime statistics, Manny Pacquiao, Pierre Joseph Lannoy, Sixto de los Angeles
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