The rape-slaying of UST Tourism cum laude graduate Cyrish Magalang last October in Cavite shocked the nation not only for its brutality but also for its senselessness. Magalang had boarded a tricycle in her village but she did not reach her destination; she was waylaid by the driver and his brother; she was abducted and raped, then stabbed more than 40 times; her head was found smashed. The brothers later confessed to the crimes and pleaded for forgiveness, saying they were drug-induced and near-witless when they committed the horrendous crimes.

It is easy to consign Magalang’s fate as one in a million, as something remote and the exception to the rule. But recently, a junior UST Pharmacy student was severely injured after being shot by an unknown group at the corner of P. Noval and J. Barlin streets, a few meters away from the UST campus. The victim suffered gunshot wounds at the right side of his lower back and head wounds after being beaten with a steel baton, police said.

Earlier, a former UST student was stabbed by a group of female students inside the Morayta campus of Far Eastern University, after being invited by a friend to watch the awarding ceremony of a film competition. The attending physician found multiple stab wounds on the victim’s back, abdomen, and head.

These cases are hardly exceptions to the rule. The fact is that many young students and people are prey to dangerous criminality everywhere they go. In the University Belt, UST and other students have been held up and/or stabbed or shot. Going to and from the U-Belt is a hazard, as the case of Magalang, who not too long ago was commuting from Cavite to Manila when she was a UST student, should show. We’re pretty sure UST and other U-Belt students have experienced similar hazards.

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Last school year, the managing editor of the Varsitarian, an Architecture graduate, was robbed of his iPad in a bus from Alabang to UST. This year, his successor, a Biology student, was held up in a jeepney in Kamuning, Quezon City on his way to UST and robbed of his Blackberry.

There are several other cases, many of them with victims not bothering to report to the police because they didn’t trust the authorities. How could they trust them when even the son of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) had complained that cops themselves tried to fleech him!

The NCRPO has identified the 21 crime-prone areas in Metro Manila that posted highest cases of robbery, theft, and physical injuries in the first six months of the year. Among them are Station 3 and 4, or the Sta. Cruz and Sampaloc districts, respectively. These areas cover the U-Belt.

Data from NCRPO showed that crime rate in Metro Manila rose to 36 percent in the first semester, or 29,231 reported incidents, from last year’s 18,671. The Manila Police District accounted for the most number of crimes at 4,073, followed by the Southern and Quezon City Police Districts which registered 4,047 and 3,692 crimes, respectively.

Such overwhelming numbers prompted NCRPO Director Leonardo Espina to implement one-strike policy among the five precinct commanders of Manila to “intensify crime-prevention operations in their respective areas of jurisdiction.”

On the part of UST, school officials have ordered the installation of about 1,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on campus as part of the multi-million security measure for the Thomasian community of more than 40,000. According to UST Security Office Detachment Commander Jospeh Badinas, CCTV cameras are “psychological deterrent” to perpetrators, resulting in the continuing decline of reported crime and misbehavior in the campus.

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But the story is different the moment the students step out of the school premises. And as they dwell in the criminal playground that is the metropolis, no one will ever know who’s going to be the next prey.

As the Varsitarian was writing this editorial, FEU was still trying to recover from the shock of three of its students mowed down by gunfire by motorcycle-riding men in front of the campus on the night of December 4! UST itself was shocked about the flagrant violence since two of the victims had been brought to the UST Hospital.

The last incident again underscored that crime and violence continue to fester in the country, particularly in the U-Belt, affecting students and young people, with the violence becoming more and more vicious.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Nicanor Bartolome has ordered the mobilization of the 17,000 police “to cover every square inch” of the 21 crime-prone areas in Metro Manila.” But the mobilization is at best tokenism. In any case, past police campaigns have not failed to stamp out criminality and violence. They have merely exposed the incompetence and corruption of the police.

Police incompetence and corruption have not only worsened criminality, they have abetted criminality. When one considers that Magalang’s rapist-murderers were drug-inebriated, one realizes that the PNP and other law enforcers have miserably failed in practically all areas of crime-fighting, including checking drug trafficking and smuggling (Cavite is well-known as a smugglers’ paradise). In almost all heinous crimes, drugs are a strong factor.

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Certainly it is time for the PNP officialdom to stop coming up with public relations gimmickry to bolster public confidence in the police: it should show results in its anti-crime campaign, not beautiful advertising campaigns and worse, the wrong suspects slapped with trumped-up charges.

Unless the PNP and the law-enforcement regime shape up, there will be more Cyrish Magalangs. If the PNP cannot be part of the solution, it should not remain part of the problem. It should be man enough to admit that and banish itself.

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