Several mornings ago, I stumbled upon the long-running TV/radio program Failón Ñgayón and heard its indefatigable host, Ted Failón, ranting about the problematic crime situation in Quezon City. He was criticizing the Philippine National Police’s initiative in encouraging the citizenry to participate in crime reporting. Failón thought it was ridiculous. Instead of spurring civilians to do some crime reporting, the PNP instead should do a massive crime prevention.
“Crime prevention, not crime reporting!”, cried Failón.
His statement made sense. You see, many decades ago, petty crimes, particularly in Manila, almost never stood a chance to thrive even in the murkiest of alleys. This is because of an effective police strategy in crime prevention. Former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim who was a renowned crime fighter himself has a term for it. It’s called “pounding the beat”. In his biography May Langit Din Ang Mahirap: The Life Story of Alfredo Siojo Lim written by the late National Artist Nick Joaquín, Mayor Lim related how this scheme worked out, and how effective it really was:
“‘In my time, if you were given a beat, you pounded that beat on foot. You had to walk every inch of it. You were given block to cover. Let us imagine a block as a grid of criss-crossing streets. You began your beat, say, at the southern part outermost street. You walked it from one end to the other where you made a U-turn into the next street, which again you walked from end to end, U-turning into the third street and so on. Now, how long it would take a patrolman to walk from the southern outermost street had already been exactly timed. Say it had been checked that your assigned block would take a full hour to walk from one end to the other. So, if you arrived at the northern outermost street in very much less than an hour, you could be accused of skipping several streets on your beat. Or if you arrive at the northern outermost street in very much more than an hour, you could be suspected of having abandoned your post for half an hour or so. And the suspicions could be verified because a supervising patrol sergeant, unseen by you, was monitoring your every step and was supposed to know every moment where exactly you were.’
“That was the old way of pounding the beat and it ensured that at any moment, day or night, you would beet a policeman on any street in Manila. But Edo Lim knows —and regrets— that there is no longer any such pounding of the beat. The patrolman now does his thing seated —at the outpost, or in a patrol car— and the walkie-talkie does his walking for him.
“‘I pounded the beat in San Nicolás for over a year.'”
Annoyingly, this strategy is no longer in use. Rarely do you see a cop monitoring your neighborhood streets on foot. You’ll find them either inside their patrol cars or in the confines of their precincts, giving many the impression that they are simply waiting for a crime to be reported to them instead of them preventing it to happen. Because the usual scenario is this: they respond only after a crime has been done, only upon receipt of a complaint or report from frightened (or, God forbid, injured) civilians.
Why oh why has this pounding the beat been discontinued? Columnist Ramón Tulfo observed that today’s policemen are too proud to even walk on foot.
“Most police noncommissioned officers, especially the new ones, think that their college diploma places them on the same level as their superiors,” Tulfo complained. “What did he go to college for if he does jobs he considers menial? That’s the mentality of the ordinary policeman, especially the new ones.”
But when you read Mayor Lim’s biography (published in 1998, it was the first Nick Joaquín book I ever bought), it will prove Tulfo wrong. Mayor Lim himself had a college education. He graduated at the Far Eastern University with a degree of Business Administration. And not just him but his contemporaries as well. And all of them rookies pounded the beat.
But there should be no more explanations. Action must be taken, period. Failón is right: crime prevention is the key. So long as we ordinary civilians do not receive the protection and security that we deserve, we will always be at the mercy of not just petty criminals but those bigger sharks in power.
No wonder me and my family received audacious death threats on Facebook from politicians Eugenio Ynión, Jr. and his brother Rommel. Because they, and people like them, are already confident that the PNP has lost its nerve a long time ago, that they can easily escape (or perhaps pay) the law anytime. The Brothers Ynión can simply pay a goon or two to gun us down in the streets, or kidnap us, or whatever. And with no patrolmen pounding the beat, how could we hapless taxpaying citizens even feel safe in our very own turf, our country, where we are supposed to feel at home more than anywhere else in the world?
Of course our only hope right now is PNP Chief Alan Purísima. Before his term ends, here’s hoping that he leaves a lasting impression, a legacy, not just for himself and for the Filipino people but for the very institution —already tarnished with an ill-disposed reputation— to which he dedicated most of his life.
The police should pound that beat once more. Besides, it’s good exercise, too.