TO FIGHT the crime surge, government should put "more boots on the ground" by hiring 50,000 more policemen, a move which would both raise the national police strength to 200,000 and the cop-to-population ratio to the ideal one per 500, a senator said on Thursday.

"With a current population of 100 million, the country needs about 200,000 policemen, but the authorized 'uniformed personnel ceiling' of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is only around 151,410," Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said.

"Filling all of these, plus adding more," he said, "should be part of the 'last two years' agenda of the Aquino administration."

"If I may give an unsolicited advice, I think the President should announce a massive policemen recruitment program in his second-to-the-last Sona (State of the Nation Address)," Angara added. "It will send a comforting message to the nation that more men are being suited up to roll back crime".

Last year, 1,033,833 crimes were reported to the police, which Angara said, could just be fraction of the total as more victims, skeptic perhaps that the culprits will not be caught, opt not to report to the police what they had experienced.

"Understated the data may be, it still paints a scary picture: One is murdered every hour, a robbery is committed every 10 minutes, someone is raped every 72 minutes, a theft is happening every three and half minutes," he said.

Angara said Aquino's Sona announcement can be followed through with a request in the 2015 national budget, which the President must submit to Congress within a month after his July 22 speech, for funds to hire the initial batch of rookies.

He proposed that 25,000 policemen be hired in 2015 and the same number in 2016.

"The initial cost of hiring 25,000 new cops, assuming they will join the service in the second half of the year, is about P5 billion," Angara said.

However, he admitted that the number of recruits can be pared down.

"Of course, there is the question of funding. We can then downscale the quota and stretch the recruitment period. What is important is to assuage the people that more cops are coming," he said.

Angara noted that the "first year price tag" of P5 billion is almost equivalent to the P4.8 billion of the scrapped Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators. "It is one-fifth of what could have been the entire pork of both houses of Congress," he said.

"If we are looking for a project to which we can rechannel the scuttled PDAF funds, then what could be more worthy than hiring more policemen to keep our communities and children safe?" the lawmaker said.

Angara said the one policeman for every 500 population ratio "is not an option but a mandate of law, Republic Act 6975, the 1989 law creating the Department of Interior and Local Government."

But a quarter of a century since it was passed, the policeman-to-population ratio, which on paper currently stands at one per 675, has never been achieved, Angara said.

"In contrast, our Asean neighbors are fielding more policemen. Thailand has one for every 304 persons; Indonesia, one per 428; Malaysia, one per 267," he said.

In addition to hiring more policemen, the PNP can maximize its force by "unshackling police officers from their desks, and handing over administrative duties to non-uniformed personnel (NUP)," Angara said.

In a bid to free police officers who should be pounding beats instead of doing paper work, the PNP is hiring 13,000 NUPs this year.

Angara said the Philippine ratio of one policeman to 675 population does not translate to the actual number of cops on duty at any given time.

"Cops work in shifts. There are those who call in sick, on leave, in training, or are suspended. Thousands are assigned to headquarters duty or support services. So the actual number of policemen in precinct duty, or on patrol, who can respond to a distress call is probably a third of the total force, and that is already a very optimistic estimate," he said. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)