WRONG: ‘Naga top 5 city in crime volume’

Rambo Talabong

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WRONG: ‘Naga top 5 city in crime volume’
The Philippine National Police reads out their data sorted per region. Naga City is in Bicol, which is Region 5.

Claim: The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday, August 22, announced in a press briefing that Naga City is the top 5 city in terms of crime volume.

“Let me share the information based on PNP data that among the major cities of the country, Naga City has consistently ranked number 5 in terms of crime volume in the 1st semester of 2017 and 2018,” PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde told reporters.

The press briefing was held with just short notice because Albayalde wanted to deny a news site report that he had refuted President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that Naga is a “shabu (methamphetamine) hotbed.”

Based on their data, Albayalde said the PNP backs Duterte, given that police see correlation between crime rates and drug prevalence in an area.

Naga City has gained prominence for being the hometown and bailiwick of Vice President Leni Robredo – the figurehead of the opposition under Duterte’s presidency.

When asked for the top 4 cities that had higher crime volumes, Albayalde named Santiago in Isabela, Angeles in Pampanga, Olongapo in Zambales, and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

Rating: FALSE

The facts: Asked for the data that PNP chief Albayalde cited, the PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana supplied Rappler with the data on murder, homicide, rape, robbery, and theft.

Upon examination, the PNP’s data on cities turned out to be unsorted.

They were not arranged based on crime volume but by region. Naga City is in Bicol or Region 5.

This is why Albayalde read as supposed top 4 the cities of regions southward from Cagayan Valley: Santiago is in Region 2, Angeles and Zambales are in Region 3, and Puerto Princesa is in Region 4-B. 

The list covers 36 “chartered cities” or cities that have city police offices. Cities excluded from the list only have city police stations, which operate directly under provincial police offices. City police offices enjoy a certain level of independence.

Durana said he handed the data to Albayalde, and the latter read them during the hastily-called press briefing.

Durana said Naga City is, in fact, 6th in crime volume from January to July 2018 for cities outside Metro Manila.

The PNP spokesman apologized on Friday, August 24, for misreading the data, saying in a text message, “My sincere apology to this oversight and whatever inconvenience it may have caused in which I, as Acting Chief PIO, [am] solely responsible.”

Adding the counts from the first semesters of 2017 and 2018, the following are Naga’s standings in crime statistics shared by the PNP: 

  • Homicide – 24th to 26th place with Iligan and Mandaluyong
  • Murder – 34th
  • Rape – 29th
  • Robbery – 11th
  • Theft – 6th

UNSORTED. The PNP's crime statistics on cities are not sorted based on volume but based on the regions they belong to. PNP photos

PNP still backs Duterte: Despite the apparent misreading of numbers, the PNP still believes President Duterte has basis for saying that Naga is a source of illegal drugs.

While the crime volume is lower than they had estimated, Durana said Naga City had posted the highest average monthly crime rate across the country, including Metro Manila.

“[It is] followed by Mandaue City, Pasay City, Iloilo City, and Makati City,” Durana said in a text message on Thursday.

The monthly crime rate is calculated by dividing the number of reported crimes in a month by the population in an area. The result is then multiplied to 100,000.

“This is the more accurate data to use,” Durana told Rappler in a phone interview.

The PNP has yet to release the data to back Durana’s new statements. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.