MANILA, January 29, 2004 (STAR) Things are looking up for the Philippine National Police. As it marks its 13th year today, it seems the biggest beef of the public against cops is the enormous traffic jam caused in recent days by the construction of a new main gate for Camp Crame, headquarters of the PNP. Construction was rushed so the new gate could welcome guests at the anniversary celebrations today.

The public can only hope the new gate will also keep in terrorists and drug dealers who seem to find no difficulty escaping from maximum security detention centers at PNP headquarters. The escape of Indonesian bomb-maker Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi and two Abu Sayyaf terrorists from Camp Crame was the low point for the PNP last year, earning for the country the dubious distinction of being the weakest link in the regionís war on terror.

The nation managed to recover somewhat with the arrest of the escapees. Al-Ghozi and one of the Abu Sayyaf members did not live to tell their tale, but few people seemed to mind. The PNP also managed to redeem itself with the arrest of suspected top members of Jemaah Islamiyah, Taufek Refke and Mukhlis Yunos. The catch of the year was Ghalib Andang, the Abu Sayyaf commander better known as Commander Robot who was responsible for the kidnapping caper in the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan in 2000.

The PNP reported a drop in street crimes and cited accomplishments in the war on drugs, bank robberies and carjacking last year. The biggest improvement, however, has been in the war against kidnappers, although credit goes to the new man at the helm of the anti-kidnapping task force, who happens not to be a cop but a retired soldier.

The success of the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force shows what can be done when law enforcers do their job well. And the PNP still has much work to do, even as it celebrates its accomplishments. Jueteng is still very much around. There arenít enough big-time drug dealers being sent to jail. Carjacking remains a major problem especially in Metro Manila. And kidnappers are finding new ways of eluding the task force. Equally challenging is the continuing effort to rid the PNP of the inept and corrupt, and those who are directly involved in criminal activities. These are daunting tasks and the PNP cannot afford to relax.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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