The government is strengthening its efforts against cybercrimes, particularly online scams victimizing ordinary Filipinos, the country’s top cop said on Tuesday.
In a press briefing, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. acknowledged the “drastic increase in cybercrimes” and said the PNP is training its personnel so that each police station can have investigators assisting them in cybercrime cases.
The PNP chief earlier joined a sectoral meeting in Malacañang led by President Marcos as it tackled the country’s peace and order situation. He said Mr. Marcos ordered the strengthening of the PNP’s cybersecurity systems by training its personnel and investing in technology.
The country’s crime rate may have “improved,” as Acorda reported to the President, but the figures on cybercrimes are not very encouraging.
The Philippines, after all, ranks among the top countries in the world that are most concerned about online security, according to Google Trends data.
The search engine giant showed that in 2023, Filipinos frequently searched for such terms as “malinformation,” “cybercrime,” “phishing,” “malware,” “fraud” and “scam.”
Cybersecurity was a hot topic in the country, as Google revealed. The search engine giant reported a 90 percent uptick in global searches for “scams” in 2023 compared to the previous year.
According to the PNP, there was a 10-percent decrease in crime incidents from the time Mr. Marcos assumed office in July 2022 to January this year—a full stretch of 18 months.
But as for crimes committed online during that period, the PNP recorded swindling as the top cybercrime with 15,937 cases—a surge from 5,452 cases in the previous 18 months before the start of the Marcos administration.
The police also recorded 4,821 cases of illegal access and 2,384 cases of identity theft.
Other cybercrimes recorded by the PNP are credit card fraud, data interference, threats, photo and video voyeurism and computer-related fraud.
“In line with that, as instructed by our President, we are intensifying, we are capacitating our police officers on the ground especially as of previously, our cybercrime group is only up to the regional level,” Acorda said.
“But this time, we are training our personnel and our objective is that down to the police station level [or] municipal level, we will have police officers who are trained to handle cybercrime or online crimes,” he added.
He said the cybersecurity training for PNP personnel and the needed equipment were already funded under the 2024 General Appropriations Act.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos warned the public against the proliferation of so-called love scams, with perpetrators preying on the heartbroken to exact monetary favors.
“Scammers would look at Facebook profiles and hunt for those who are lonely and alone; they would try to find your favorite music, food and then exploit that weakness—typical schemes employed by syndicates,” he said.
He urged netizens not to carelessly click on online links which may serve to extract private information of users. —WITH A REPORT FROM RUSSEL P. LORETO INQ