Sense of deja vu during the pandemic

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    NOW the statistics are telling.

    The Philippines averaged 91 criminal incidents per day during the past 180 days since the community quarantine began last March 17. By “criminal incidents,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) meant the Eight Focus Crimes namely, murder, homicide, rape, physical injuries, robbery, theft, carnapping of motorcycles, and carnapping of cars and vans.

    The numbers came from the Joint Task Force COVID Shield headed by police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar. He said the crime volume during the 180-day quarantine period is 47 percent lower compared to the 180-day period before the community quarantine was implemented, or from Sept. 19, 2019 to March 16, 2020.

    During the same period last year, the average crime volume was 171 per day. The Visayas or Central Philippines experienced the most number of reduced 8 Focus Crimes with 50 percent, or from 44 crimes a day to only 22. Luzon followed with a 47 percent reduction, or from 91 per day to 49 per day. Mindanao has 44 percent reduction, or from 37 per day to 21 per day. For the crime of murder, the police recorded 22 percent reduction, homicide with 26 percent reduction, physical injury with 38 percent reduction, and rape with 25 percent reduction.

    ‘The people’s intense fear of the unknown, streets without vehicles and pedestrians, curfew and its passes, a strong state watching over the citizens, fewer criminal incidents — these were all with us in September 1972…’

    Also from the PNP Joint Task Force COVID Shield are the numbers about Crimes against Property. This category logged the biggest rate of decrease, with 66 percent reduction in carnapping of motorcycles, 62 percent less in carnapping of cars, decrease of 61 percent in robbery, and 60 percent in theft.

    The reason behind all these statistics is that intense fear has successfully been instilled in the hearts and minds of people, rightfully or wrongly promoted by the state, to put in check the population’s mobility, way of life, psycho-social values and even the way they think. Also, with police checkpoints everywhere and threats of punishment for those who would not obey the basic health protocols, even hardened criminals and those thinking of committing robberies and theft due to poverty had to postpone the need.

    The police and the military — and by extension, the barangay tanods, COVID-19 marshals, city and MMDA traffic aides and even private security guards — had their heyday, relishing in their newfound power and authority, however minuscule, such as refusing entry to anybody not wearing a face mask.

    General Eleazar cannot help but rejoice over these numbers, although he knows that this “accomplishment” is occasioned more by the COVID-19 pandemic and the people’s dread of the coronavirus rather than exemplary police work. Can you blame anybody in the police force for longing for an extended quarantine period, the better to shore up their power and influence?

    The people’s intense fear of the unknown, streets without vehicles and pedestrians, curfew and its passes, a strong state watching over the citizens, fewer criminal incidents — these were all with us in September, 1972 when President Marcos declared martial law. The same lay of the barren land we had in the 180-day community quarantine cannot help but relive a feeling of deja vu to many of us.