[Photo at left  -  President Arroyo is all smiles at the 14th anniversary of the Philippine National Police yesterday at Camp Crame. With her are (from left) PNP chief Director General Edgar Aglipay, former President Fidel Ramos and Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes. Photo by REVOLI CORTEZ ]

MANILA, February 1, 2005 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva and Christina Mendez  -  Much has been accomplished, but more still needs to be done.

President Arroyo praised the Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday for the gains it made last year against terrorism, illegal drugs and kidnapping but also warned of the dangers posed by corruption within the ranks.

Mrs. Arroyo paid a glowing tribute to PNP chief Director General Edgar Aglipay in her speech at the 14th anniversary of the PNP at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

"On this day of your anniversary, I greet you all, and to General Aglipay, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate him for a job well done," she said.

She said Aglipay had responded well to her order "to improve public safety, stop drug trafficking, fight corruption within your ranks and wage an all-out war against terror."

Aglipay, who took office only last September, will retire in March.

The presidential tribute came a day after the PNP busted another kidnapping-for-ransom group.

Mrs. Arroyo congratulated the Special Action Force, the Traffic Management Group and the Batangas regional police for the arrest of eight suspected kidnappers in Batangas led by Edgar Allen Alvarez, who carried an P800,000 reward.

Alvarez and his gang were captured after a five-hour firefight that left six police officers injured, including two who are still in critical condition.

Mrs. Arroyo gave a presidential citation to the Anti-Illegal Drugs Task Force (AIDSTOF) for its "good work" of "cutting the illegal trade by half."

She also praised the PNP for having thwarted "the evil designs of terrorists even before they could act."

Mrs. Arroyo said the successes of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines against terrorism won for the country the "singular honor" of chairing both the new United Nations Security Council committee on terrorism and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Counter-Terrorism Task Force.

But Mrs. Arroyo also urged the PNP not to "tarnish your badge with the stain of corruption."

"It is in the enforcement of the law in the streets that people sense the sternness as well as the compassion of the law," she said. "The officers and personnel of the PNP must not be found wanting."

Despite his impending retirement, Aglipay turned over to Mrs. Arroyo a PNP action plan against corruption, including the implementation of an "e-procurement system."

"The plan also identifies all possible forms of corruption in the PNP and provides how we intend to effectively prevent and stop each," he said.

In his speech, Aglipay still sounded hurt by a report released last December by the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. The report tagged the PNP as the most corrupt institution in the country.

"The most damaging act of corruption, according to Transparency International is the act of victimizing the lowliest sector of our country. This is being done by the kotong (bribe given to evade a traffic citation) and hulidap (arrest and extortion) cops," he said.

Aglipay said the overall rate of crime had fallen eight percent since he took office in September.

"We have decreased kidnapping by 62 percent, bank or armored vehicle robbery by 79 percent, highway robbery by 56 percent, and hijacking by 19 percent," he said.

Aglipay said the PNP arrested 14 kidnap suspects and three bank robbers at the foiled robbery of a Banco de Oro branch in Valenzuela. He also cited the raid on a suspected shabu warehouse in Davao, which resulted in the killing of six Chinese nationals, and the rescue of a German national and the capture of 10 kidnappers in Alabang.

Aglipay said the PNP arrested 20,328 drug pushers and users and filed 16,263 cases in court.

Raids by the AIDSTOF and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on 15 laboratories netted over P25 billion worth of illegal drugs.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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