Prevention and Elimination of Crime: A Key to Moral and Economic Recovery

Speech Before Government Association of Certified Public Accountants

First of all, I would like to thank all of you – most specially National President TITO NABUA – for your very kind invitation. I welcome your hand in my new work as Senator. And you can count on my help, too.

This is my first time to address your Association. I am profoundly grateful. And if you plan to invite me again next year, I am now accepting in advance your invitation.

The first thing I want to tell you is what I told my staff as early as June. I told them never to make and take money from anyone and under whatever guise. Public money is for the public, all of it. It must not go to the pocket of any public servant. 

That is exactly what I demanded from the police when I became Chief, PNP in November of 1999. Some police officers, however, remained deaf. They continued mulcting drivers and viajeros. Others continued using car-napped vehicles they recovered. Still others – like a certain General Yamashita – were piling hay from jueteng.

Today, they have only themselves to blame for their continuing disgrace and misery.

I remember telling our police officers that with some little imagination and effort they can live an economically adequate life.

They need not steal from public funds.

They need not extort from the private sector.

They need not share from illegal gambling and vices.

Of course, that is impossible if they have too many families to support. Or they have too many vices to feed. Or too materialistic.

It is significant to me that you are holding your 24th Annual Convention in the Queen City of Cebu. Many years ago, I was here as METRODISCOM Commander. I have a little story to tell.

Metro Cebu was then – as it is now – relatively peaceful and orderly. In spite of that condition, a kidnap-for-ransom occurred during my watch as Metrodiscom Commander. We went to work, safely rescued the victim and arrested the kidnappers. The victim’s family was profusely grateful and deeply relieved.

But that is only a part of the story. Immediately thereafter the victim’s father came to personally thank me. Without meaning any malice, he offered an amount of money to express his gratitude. I gently refused. And he wisely understood.

That no less than the ISAFP Chief, Victor Corpus, would many years later accuse me of making money through abduction, remains to me incomprehensible. What gall. I can only pray that in his old age he will be man enough to repent of his folly.

Let me digress some more.

Police Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Berroya two weeks ago accused me of plotting against the Arroyo government. This former convict does not seem to get it. Like Corpus, he remains addicted to the perks and comforts of his delusion.

It is not in my blood to plot against any government. Not during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos. Not during the time of President Corazon Aquino. Not during the tie of President Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. And certainly not against the Arroyo administration.

I was a Guest Speaker of the Rotarians of Metro Cebu last July 1. I described Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as cute and harmless. To mount a coup against a cute and harmless woman president, is not one of preferred tendencies. It never was. It never will be.

Most likely, it is Berroya who has mounted a counter-coup by silently hostaging a cute and harmless president. This cute and harmless president has promoted Berroya twice in eight months. This cute and harmless president has given plum assignment to Berroya – first as Intelligence Group Director and now Regional Director of the jueteng-rich Region 3.

I am tempted to think that this Berroya is already abusing the human rights of the president.

Let me say it for the umpteenth time: I do not see any reason to stage a coup. I am supremely incapable of it – anyway.

I criticize the President. This is only to keep what is right and to set right what is wrong. To her credit, Her Excellency remains cool and calm.

National President Tito asked me to develop and deliver a paper on the prevention and elimination of crime. He believes that crimelessness is the key to moral and economic recovery, is one point I wholeheartedly share.

That moral recovery could become the key to crimelessness, is one comforting thought. Morally upright people do not commit crime. They, in fact, are self-empowered to avoid the temptations and opportunities of doing one.

And President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was right to have proclaimed sound moral foundation as the bedrock of her administration. I have read most of her public speeches. I am impressed.

You know her 4-8-3 principled leadership. It covers her 4-fold belief system, her 8-fold set of standards, and her 3-pillar of governance. I did praise her for her 4-8-3. And she knows it.

But whether or not her rhetoric has been matched by results, is an entirely different matter. But that is not a part of my paper. She has already enough headache with the Bigger Arroyo. Not to mention the Big Berroya.

Enough of that. Let me now deliver my paper.

In a thoroughly researched work, Mr. ELLIOT CURRI of the University of Berkeley in California concludes that where private gain becomes the dominant organizing principle of social and economic life, then we need to expect high levels of violent crime. The dominance of private gain is what makes society vulnerable to violence and criminality. The operative term here is dominance.

To prevent and eliminate crime, is easier said than done. Murder has not stopped since Cain killed his younger brother. Robbery and theft have not stopped since somebody stole something from the tree of life. And begun enjoying it.

What we can do at best is to comprehend those mechanisms that contribute to our vulnerability to violence and crime. In so doing, we hope to maximize our defenses.

In the work of Currie, there are seven such vulnerability-contributing mechanisms. Let me briefly comment on all of them.

One, progressive destruction of livelihood. You and I know that crime and the labor market are intertwined in multiple ways. Unemployment offers no rewards. It only brings temptations to commit crime and violence.

For example, street peddlers of drugs are first idle and unemployed. Because of misery and frustration, they then become easy prey to the poisoned carrots of narcotics.

Our average employment this year is 28.8 million. Our unemployment rate is 10.1%. This is a breeding ground for violence and crime.

Two, growth of extremes of inequality and material deprivation. You and I know that a hungry stomach knows no law. When poverty is what welcomes and attends the birth and growth of children, we can be sure that crime will be their easy company. This is most experienced in urban blighted areas.

An equalizer would be to catalyze the growth of the middle class. What is happening is that the few rich people are dwindling, the many poor people are getting poorer, and the middle class cannot seem to make any difference.

Three, the withdrawal of public services and supports. This is most humanely unfortunate if not altogether lethally tragic.

Government was invented precisely to support and protect the weak who are many from the few who are strong. The wealthy few can take care of themselves. But the poor majority must be taken care of.

Public money must be spent for the poor and not stolen from them. Otherwise, the poor and unemployed and unwashed will do nothing but rebel and revolt.

The late American President John F. Kennedy once said it best: A government that cannot protect the many who are poor, will not be able to save the rich who are few. He is right.

Four, the erosion of informal networks of mutual support. What continues to keep up sane is the network of informal supports – from our traditional family, friends, schoolmates, fraternal clubs, professional associations, and the like. All these must not be co-opted by the evil society.

For if we do not nourish enough this network, we may see the day when the law of the jungle takes over. We all become barbarians once more. This time, with unparalleled virulence.

Five, the spread of a materialistic and neglectful culture. Somebody many years back came to the Philippines. He visited his country, and wrote of our damaged culture.

We never learned to like the article. Neither did we forgive the writer. Who he is.

Today, my friends, it is not damaged culture that disappoints us. We are now hearing of the culture of callousness. This is worse than Fallows’ damaged culture.

Six, the deregulation of the technology of violence. Let me deal on the technology of violence from my experience as police officer.

Until today, many people do not like me. These are the people who would like to own and use a gun under the guise of self-protection. As such, they would like government to ease up the regulations and restrictions on gun licensing, including permit to carry firearms outside residence.

When I was Chief, PNP I gave an order: Only those who could validly justify ownership, possession and carrying of firearms should be allowed. The principle is simple: the technology of violence – guns, for this matter – must not be deregulated. It must, instead, be religiously regulated and restricted.

I held on that principle. And people held on to their hatred.

Question is: has private gain and commerce anything to do with the deregulation of the technology of violence? Yes, it has. Not only among entrepreneurs but also among government regulators who are corrupt.

The best way to degrade the technology of violence is to regulate it some more. If government means to govern well, here is where it must show its power. Even America is having a change of mind on gun proliferation. Why can’t we?

And seven, the weakening of social and political alternatives. If we are afraid of alternatives, we should at least be less afraid to discuss them in the open. Otherwise, we remain stuck.

Our political values must be changed from electoral victories to building leader institutions those who are vested with the authority to govern must vest themselves with the audacity to serve.

It is time we stop looking for election winnables and winners. We must begin to entrust this nation into the hands of those who can build institutions that last for the common welfare.

To help us prevent crime, we need the police. To bring the criminal elements to justice, we need the police even more.

You tell me that we need police officers who have aptitude to do their work well. I agree.

You tell me that we need police officers who have integrity in their hearts, honesty in their minds, and humanity in their hands. I vigorously agree.

Cleansing the police was my first agenda when I became Chief,PNP. And I tell you that it was like cleansing the Aegean stable.

But the cleansing was done anyway

The inept were retrained.

The corrupt were removed.

And the undisciplined were reformed.

As a result, the People spoke during my time as Chief, PNP and gave the PNP the highest ever Net Approval Rating of +53. Sayang, this nose-dived after January 2001. I will not tell you about the latest Pulse Asia survey. I know you already know all of it.

Be that as it may, hope springs eternal. That applies not only to crime prevention and elimination but also to moral and economic recovery.

But crime prevention and elimination, my friends, is not all police work. It is a community effort. It calls for you and me. For us together.