By Armando Fenequito
DAVAO CITY – Davao City is known to be one of the safest cities in Asia. In fact, in the 2019 Midyear South-Eastern Asia Crime Index survey by Numbeo.com, Davao City was listed as the safest city in the Philippines, and second in the Asian region.
Despite the city’s past experience bombings and crimes, it is still undeniable that the hometown of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is where one can feel safe even when walking the streets at night.
So how does Davao do it?
Aside from beefing up its forces, the city has adopted new strategy for crime prevention that involves the whole community.
And remember “Oplan: Tokhang (Operation Plan: Knock and Plead)” – the door-to-door appeal made by police officers in Davao City for residents to shun illegal drugs and other forms of criminality that gained national prominence – or even notoriety – when Duterte came into power in 2016?
Well, that’s a thing of the past in Davao City. Davao City Police Office (DCPO) city director Police Col. Alexander C. Tagum said a new form of community collaboration that they have called “Oplan: Kalinaw” has become a more effective tool to prevent crime, and even detect terror at its earliest stage.
Oplan: Kalinaw, or Operation Plan: Peace, Tagum explained, is an anti-criminality campaign that targets areas that are vulnerable to terrorists’ infiltration, and could possibly become criminal lairs.
‘Tokhang’ to ‘Kalinaw’
Unlike the previous, Oplan: Tokhang which was conceptualized to principally run against illegal drug suspects, Oplan Kalinaw is more comprehensive as it targets
all criminals in the community even as the police are engaging in community relations.
Oplan Kalinaw evolved, or shall we say, was toned down from what used to be Oplan: Bulabog (Operation Plan Shock and Awe), which was adopted at the height
of the Marawi Siege in 2017.
Oplan: Bulabog targeted areas in the city that were vulnerable to becoming hiding places of terror groups at the height of the siege. Tagum said they identified
areas were usually where sympathizers could take them in.
In a typical Oplan Bulabog operation, the police would go in an area to conduct profiling and background checking, especially on transient residents and their
reason for residing in the place.
But after government forces were finally able to retake Marawi City after five months of conflict, Tagum realized that it was time to change the name of the program as it sounded too negative and that it could even be used against them. “I admit that word ‘bulabog’ has a bad connotation,” he said.
To put some tweaks on the crime prevention campaign, Tagum said the DCPO added community outreach programs and empowerment through information and an education drive to what used to be the Oplan: Bulabog they conducted in the 12 areas they regularly visit in
Tagum said that this operation was considered as a “catalyst” to police service since they were able to bring basic social services to the communities while doing the police fulfills its mandate in maintaining peace and order.
The program was even conducted in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and government offices, including them military, Task Force Davao, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency 11, Tactical Operations Group 11, Public Safety and Security Command Center, Central 911, City Traffic and Transport Management Office, City Health Office, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 11, Regional Crime Laboratory Office 11, Highway Patrol, Group 11, Bureau of
Fire Protection 11, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency 11, among others.
In their community outreach program, the DCPO and their partner agencies and offices provided free medical check-ups, medicines, vitamins and conducted feeding program in the areas they visited every week.
For its community empowerment, Tagum said they conducted dialogues with the residents, explaining the laws and ordinances, as well as giving them safety tips for them not to be a victim of crime.
“We find this very effective to draw community support,” Tagum said.
City councilor Mary JoselleVillafuerte, whose office was among the first partners of the city police for Oplan: Kalinaw, said the program has been an effective strategy in preventing crime and terrorism while winning the public’s support through the free services they offer.
“The whole community is now part of this peace and order strategy which has helped lower crime rate in our city significantly,” Villafuerte said.
‘Dangerous placefor criminals’ Tagum said with Oplan: Kalinaw’s success, it has truly made the city as the “most dangerous place for criminals” and a safe place for law abiding citizens.
Since the start of their operations on May 2017 up to June this year, the DCPO already conducted 1,230 operations and with this, they arrested 1,705 fugitives who were hiding in the communities that the program visited.
Of the total operations, 111,597 people were verified and cleared for possible criminal charges; 56,296 have so far benefited from the free medical check-up, while
38, 368 have availed of free medicines and vitamins.
As a result of the more than two years that Oplan: Kalinaw has been in operation, the city’s crime volume has gone down by 60 percent – from 6,869 in the first quarter of 2015 to 2,311 in the same period last year.
In its annual data of the first semester every year since 2015, the city recorded 5,960 crime volume in 2016; 4,278 in 2017 and 2,674 in 2018.
For 65-year-old Flor Lanasa of Barangay 76-A Bucana, the operation has really helped in preventing crime in their area.
“Dapatnaagyuykalinawang among lugar (Our community should be peaceful),” she said. Paring Pineda, 58, also from Bucana, said that Oplan: Kalinaw has conveyed a stern message to criminals to just avoid their community – for their own safety.
Oplan: Kalinaw goes regionwide With the success of DCPO’s campaign, Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 Regional Director Police Brigadier Gen. Marcelo C. Morales has expressed interest in adopting Oplan: Kalinaw and replicating it in the other police offices in the whole Davao region.
Morales underscored that the program did only lead to the arrest of wanted criminals and terrorists, but also helped the community by providing them with basic services.
“We are also helping barangay officials to get the background and profile of their constituents,” he said.
And to get the ball rolling, officers from the other police districts in the Davao Region have started to attend a seminar at the DCPO on the mechanics, intricacies and noble values of
Oplan: Kalinaw last July 24.