MANILA, September 29, 2003  (STAR) In between her numerous foreign trips planned for the remainder of the year, President Arroyo may want to take another look at a problem that her administration has failed to address adequately. Before corruption became a key issue raised against her administration by her political enemies, critics had pointed to the maintenance of peace and order as the President’s weakest point.

The resurgence of kidnapping should nudge the President about the crime problem, which never really went away but merely took a backseat to scandals that have dogged her administration. Among the biggest hindrances to the peace and order campaign are law enforcers themselves. No serious purge of law enforcement agencies, however, has been undertaken.

A recent incident should once again remind the President that her campaign against criminality cannot succeed as long as there are too many rotten eggs in law enforcement agencies. Six members of the Philippine National Police Special Task Force on Illegal Drugs have been accused of kidnapping a businessman outside a mall in Parańaque in the afternoon of Sept. 19. The businessman was allegedly held for 15 hours and freed after his wife paid a ransom of P1 million. He said the six policemen also took his Pajero van, jewelry and cell phone, whose total value was estimated at around P2 million.

The only good news here is that the six have been formally charged by the PNP. But the question is whether they will be brought to justice. No arrests have been made. The alleged ringleader is a police superintendent — the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military – who is assigned at the PNP’s Internal Affairs Office, which is supposed to investigate erring police personnel. With investigators like him, it’s not surprising that little progress has been made in the purge of so-called scalawags in uniform.

The way the President was installed in power led to perceptions that she is too beholden to the uniformed services to initiate any meaningful reforms. Each kidnapping case, particularly one involving police officers, can only reinforce such perceptions.

GMA pledges to maintain moratorium on all criminal executions (Star 09/29/2003)

The death penalty moratorium stays.

After meeting with Pope John Paul II, President Arroyo announced Saturday that the government will maintain its moratorium on capital punishment.

In an interview with Vatican television, Mrs. Arroyo said her administration will continue to closely follow Catholic doctrine in various policies, including the suspension of the death penalty. The Catholic Church is strongly opposed to capital punishment. The death penalty was reinstated in 1994 under the administration of former President Fidel Ramos, but the first judicial execution since the martial law years — of convicted rapist Leo Echagaray — was in January 1999 under Mrs. Arroyo’s predecessor, ousted President Joseph Estrada. — Mayen Jaymalin

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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