MANILA Philippines – For Manila’s struggling police, the June 30 inauguration of Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte cannot come soon enough.
Duterte, known as “Duterte Harry” for his tough stand on crime, swept to election victory last month on a single policy campaign – wiping out crime in six months by killing criminals, improving policing and increasing pay in the forces.
That was welcome news to police in the Philippine capital who say they are so under-funded that they often have to buy their own bullets and get lifts to murder scenes in funeral service cars because they have no vehicles of their own.
Dhondie Bayaban, inspector of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the police had recently received a base pay rise to 14,000 pesos (US$300) a month but welcomed Duterte’s pledge of further salary increases. “It’s not that low, but not enough either to sustain a family,” said the 41-year-old.
As the police struggle for funds, reported crimes in the Philippines have more than doubled over the last five years to 675,816 last year, according to national police data.
About half of those are deemed serious, but police say the rise can be attributed to increased reporting of offences. Reported rape cases have jumped 120 per cent over the same five-year period, while drug-fuelled crime is also on the rise.
In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia, with the U.S. State Department adding that 2.1 per cent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 were using the drug. With low pay and pressured work, many officers had left the police force, according to Aurea Jane Manalaysay of the PNP Special Reaction Unit.
The 26-year-old single mother was considering emigrating before Duterte, 71, was voted in as the 16th president. Her hopes are fuelled by Duterte’s success in tackling crime in Davao, the once-lawless city in the south, where Duterte was mayor for 22 years and where hundreds of criminals were killed in execution-style encounters.
Human rights groups have documented at least 1,400 killings in Davao since 1998 that they say were carried out by death squads.
Duterte, who has vowed to bring back the death penalty, has denied any involvement in the murders but repeatedly condoned them. During the election campaign, he promised the fish in Manila Bay would grow fat on the bodies “pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings” dumped there.
Manalaysay said she welcomed the help in tackling crime.
“I’m in favour of the death squad because the number of bad people doesn’t decrease,” she said.