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The Santa Cops of CamSur

CAMARINES SUR, Philippines—The yuletide season brings about a heavy influx of tourists and balikbayans in the country who are here to celebrate the season with their families and friends, and in anticipation of this, the Camarines Sur Police Provincial Office (PPO) came up with the “Santa Cops Program.”

The Santa Cops program was the brainchild of the CamSur PPO in its efforts to follow the directive of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief director general Nicanor Bartolome of intensifying the agency’s “law enforcement operations, anti-criminality campaign and public safety services to keep the yuletide season safe,” according to an earlier statement by the PNP.

As police chief inspector and PPO public information officer Efren E. Orlina, put it, “Dahil nahiling ta during Christmas season, bako syang ordinaryong panahon, lalaganan ta man sya ning espesyal na programa (Since Christmas is not an ordinary season, we had to adopt a special program).”

The program was launched on December 13 at LCC Mall in Nabua, Camarines Sur prior to the start of the “Simbang Gabi” when people are likely to congregate in churches, considered one of the places of convergence under the watch list of the PNP for the holiday season.

In an interview with SecurityMatters, Orlina mentioned that the launching date was moved from December 14 to December 13 not only to stay ahead of the “Simbang Gabi” but also to disseminate information about the Santa Cops program in advance. “Matatandaan ta original kayan 14 para nyako pag abot kan 16 simbang gabi. Tighiling ming 13 para mas amay pa maaraman kan tao na igwa arog kaning programa (It can be recalled that the program was supposed to be launched on December 14 just in time before the Simbang Gabi but it was moved to December 13 to buy some more time to raise public awareness), he said.

In their attempt to bring the Santa Cops program closer to the public, the CamSur PPO utilized television and print media for information dissemination. Orlina said, “Nag invite kami ning friends from media particularly sa TV during the launching. Nanao kami flyers. Tigpaaram mi sainda ang essence kan Santa Cops (When we launched the program, we invited friends from the media, local TV stations in particular, and we gave away flyers to raise awareness about the essence of the Santa Cops program).

The program will run for 24 days until the Three Kings on January 6, 2013, he said.

Anti-Riding-in-Tandem Campaign

Even though the Santa Cops program has been created especially for the Christmas season, it is likely to observe common anti-criminality measures being enforced by police officers on their day to day duties such as police visibility, as mentioned by Orlina.

He emphasized the creation of the anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team which strengthens their police services for the holidays. “Ang ginigibo mi digdi ginigibo naman kan mga pulis – police visibility – pero iyo ngani yan nagcreate kita ning mga team para sa panahon na yan (Although we adopted common law enforcement practices, we nevertheless created a police team for this season),” he explained.

He added that “every district may team yan group of policemen na nag-iikot-ikot dyan kaya sinda inapod na anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team (Each district has its own team composed of roving police officers in active patrol, hence the tag anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team).”

Each team is composed of several police officers – two from each of the PNP stations – within the district which is further divided into two groups to conduct roving patrols alternately among “places of convergence” identified by the PNP as follows: tourist spots, airports, seaports, bus terminals, malls, markets, vacation hubs, and most especially churches for Simbang Gabi.

According to Orlina, “So yang grupong yan, let’s say 7 or 6, tolong motor yan na may backride. Nag-iikot yan dyan. Nagduduman sinda sa pagtubod kan mga chief of police within that district na crime prone (The small group which is likely composed of six or seven police officers on board three motorcycles will go around crime-prone areas identified by the Chief of Police within the district).”

Whenever there is an incident subject to police assistance, the group would converge to respond to the situation as the dedicated team armed with police mobility and visibility, he said.

Police assistance also extends to highway patrol. Orlina exemplified a case of driving under the influence of alcohol. “Kabali na rin yung highway. Halimbawa nagmomotor motor sinda, banggi yan eh 24 hours, may nahiling sindang medyo nagzizirizigzag na motor o kotse. Pwede nindang iflag down yan, icaution, baka mga burat na, pwede ninda dakupon (The mandate covers highway patrol that the anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team is authorized to stop, warn, or detain drunk drivers who pose imminent danger on the road).”

After all, the anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team is supposed to “make the Christmas season safe,” he further noted.

The province-wide anti-criminality teams were formed under the “Anti-Riding-In-Tandem Campaign” which happens to be the highlight of the Santa Cops program, in accordance with the PNP chief’s earlier directive “to conduct intensified police patrol utilizing the Police Integrated Patrol System (PIPS) and to deploy administrative PNP personnel to augment beat patrol personnel in anti-street crime operations.”

Execution of such a campaign, however, has been a challenge to the CamSur PPO. “Ngunyan nagpaapod kami command conference tigtawanan mi sinda ning guidance ta dai nakafocus lalo itong anti-riding-in-tandem (We had to call a command conference to provide guidance on the implementation of the program particularly the anti-riding-in-tandem campaign), Orlina said.

He also shared the common clamor of the teams: the limited number of group members.

CamSur PPO, nevertheless, maintained that there is no need for security augmentation. “We are just utilizing our own resources. It is just a matter of people management,” claimed Orlina.

Moreover, he assured that the PPO will closely monitor the anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team saying, “We will supervise them. Kaya ngunyan from time to time, tigtitext mi sinda. Where is your anti-riding-in-tandem team? Yung mga team leaders kan grupo, hain kamo ngunyan specific area (Since the campaign needs close supervision, the PPO would get in touch with the anti-riding-in-tandem criminal team from time to time to ask for the team’s whereabouts through the designated group leader).”

Gift-Giving Activities

CamSur Santa Cops not only seek to ease criminality, but also to alleviate the suffering of the less fortunate through gift-giving activities during the Christmas season. Orlina disclosed, “Igwa kitang ginigibong mga outreach tanganing may impact sa community ta ang police palan bako lang puro criminality (We initiated outreach activities to create an impact on the community beyond anti-criminality undertakings).” He cited the gift-giving activity last December 23 at Villa Marillac, a social welfare institution.

He also said they have identified six less-fortunate families for a special gift-giving program in which police officers, garbed up in their Santa Cop uniforms, will be singing Christmas carols. Instead of asking gifts in return, these police officers will be the ones giving away gifts to these families.

CamSur PPO won’t get left behind in helping out typhoon victims, too. According to Orlina, they have collected relief items from police stations across the province to be donated to the victims of Typhoon Pablo. “Igwa kami dyan tinitiripon na used clothing tapos mga kakanon na pinapadara kan mga stations sa buong Camarines Sur. Itatao mi sa region para itao sa mga biktima kan typhoon Pablo (We have gathered used clothing and relief goods from Camarines Sur police stations to be forwarded to the regional office for Typhoon Pablo victims),” he said.

The PPO’s budget for Christmas parties across all police stations in the province was also donated to the relief fund for the said typhoon victims, not to mention the Php50 contribution per police officer, said Orlina. Recall that PNP chief director general Nicanor Bartolome earlier ordered the cancellation of Christmas parties among police units and offices.

With all this, the public can continue to hope for a yuletide season not only blessed with safety and security but also with kindness and generosity from our men in uniform.