2013 opened with a bang for the Philippine National Police (PNP): One of its top officers led a team of policemen and soldiers that opened fire on a convoy of an alleged group of criminals at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon.
The January 6 incident left 13 people dead, including the alleged henchman of a gambling operator in Batangas province.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) declared the incident a rubout, not an encounter as claimed by the group of Supt. Hansel Marantan that manned the checkpoint.
Multiple murder charges were later filed against Marantan and several officers before the Gumaca, Quezon, Regional Trial Court.
The DOJ eventually dropped the charges against 11 members of the Army Special Forces Battalion who provided support to the police contingent.
The incident led to the relief of C/Supt. James Melad as director of the Southern Tagalog Police.
Six months later, police officers were again in the spotlight, this time over the death of Ricky Cadavero, the leader of the Ozamiz robbery gang, and his assistant, Wilfredo Panogalinga Jr. in San Pedro, Laguna province.
The two were gunned down while being transported back to camp after their inquest in Cavite. Their police escorts claimed that Cadavero and Panogalinga were shot when they tried to grab the gun of one of the policemen.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) established that the two were killed in cold blood.
The incident led to the relief of all the policemen involved, including the regional commander, C/Supt. Benito Estipona, who succeeded Melad as director of the Southern Tagalog Regional Police.
A fact-finding investigation by the PNP Directorate for Personnel Records and Management (DPRM) revealed that the incident was premeditated.
The policemen involved in the killing were charged with two counts of murder.
Aside from ensuring a peaceful and orderly elections in May, the PNP also had its hands full dealing with street crimes which remained a major concern in most major urban centers in the country. These include pick-pocketing, small-time scams and swindling.
As of end June 2013, the PNP Directorate for Investigative and Detective Management (DIDM) recorded 273,509 crimes. Of this number, 138,944 were index crimes or crimes committed against a person or properties and 134,565 were non-index crime or violations of laws and ordinances.
Police also recorded several bank robberies in 2013. The most daring heists, however, were carried out by street criminals who robbed jewelry shops in two popular shopping malls in Metro Manila.
On January 27, members of the “Martilyo Gang” using hammers and crowbars forced open a jewelry store in SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. In early December, several men using the same modus operandi robbed a jewelry shop inside SM North EDSA Mall in Quezon City.
The PNP also had to face the threats of terrorism and communist rebels, still very active in Mindanao and in the Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog region.
The police recorded several bombings and explosions, the deadliest of which was the explosion at a crowded bar in Cagayan de Oro City in late July, killing five people and wounding dozens.
Police traced the bombing to a newly formed group called Khilafa Islamiya Movement (KIM), believed to have links with Al-Qaeda.
Aside from the Khilafa Islamiya, the PNP monitored two other militants groups, the Anak Ti Ilo and the Young Jihadist Group.
Policemen and soldiers also responded to the occupation of several areas in Zamboanga City by rogue Moro rebels that displaced thousands of residents.
The PNP was also tapped for disaster relief operations and maintaining law and order in areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November.
PNP Chief Alan Purisima said that for the coming year, he will propose the acquisition of helicopters, patrol vehicles, firepower and communication equipment.
“The performance of PNP for 2013 is good… we have done so many things, we have some transformation that have taken place and many changes are being made and can be felt as we go on,” Purisima said.
Purisima vowed a more stringent screening of applicants, as he noted that some of the policemen involved in illegal activities were rookies.
“The problem of the PNP right now is related to the recruitment of police officers and that’s where it all started. So we are changing that slowly and hopefully we will be successful,” he said.