By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 3 (PNA) – Sorsogon’s provincial capital, Sorsogon City, is the most dangerous place in the province, according to the police.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) provincial office made this appraisal based on its latest crime rate tally that listed the city on top among the province’s 15 local government units (LGUs).
In a recent report to the PNP regional headquarters for Bicol at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, Sorsogon provincial police director Senior Supt. Marlon Tejada said that for the first half of this year, index crimes that transpired in Sorsogon City rose by 81 percent over its 2014 record for the same period.
Index crimes are those punishable under the Revised Penal Code and from 66, it went up to 120, Tejada, who assumed the post only last July, said in the report.
The number of rape cases in Sorsogon City alone has jumped from four last year to 26 this year for a 550-percent increase while murder rose by 150 percent from four to 10 cases, he said.
The provincial capital, occupied by over 155,000 people based on the 2010 census of population, is a third-class city formed in 2000 by merging the municipalities of Bacon and Sorsogon.
It serves a transshipment point from the Visayas and Mindanao provinces and dubbed as “Gateway to Southern Philippines”.
Currently being run by Mayor Sally Lee, wife of the province’s incumbent governor, Raul Lee, the city also serves as the ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese in the province.
The first-class town of Bulan, the largest Sorsogon municipality serving as the jumping board to the island of Masbate, according to Tejada’s report, ranked as the province’s second most dangerous locality for registering 45 index and 65 non-index crimes during the period assessed.
Casiguran, a small fourth class town at the neighborhood of Sorsogon City, came next in criminality rate by posting 39 index and 34 non-index crimes; followed by Matnog, the gateway to the Visayas being home to the sprawling roll-on, roll-off ferry terminal, with 35 index and 32 non-index crimes.
In the same report, Tejada said, the town of Sta. Magdalena, the smallest in the province, only had six total crimes from January to June this year, five of which are non-index crimes and only one index crime, winning for it a police classification as the most peaceful during the period.
Non-index crimes are violations of special laws like illegal fishing, logging, gambling and other light offenses.
Santa Magdalena is a fifth-class remote municipality located along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and considered as the smallest in the province in terms of population, 16,520 in 2010, and in land area, 53.40 square-kilometers.
The next least dangerous Sorsogon town, the report said, was Prieto Diaz, another small fifth-class coastal municipality with a population of only about 20,500 people, which registered only eight index crimes and seven non-index.
It is an offbeat town emerging as an ecotourism destination being blessed with unexplored caves, diverse avifaunal species like migratory birds coming from neighboring Asian countries and a 500-hectare mangrove forest that is listed as a tourism park and bird-watching site.
Bulusan, another ecotourism Sorsogon town, came as the third most peaceful in the province, the police report said, as it registered only 13 index and eight non-index crimes during the period.
The municipality plays host to Bulusan Lake at the bosom of Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, a 3,672-hectare protected area serving as home to various species of endangered animals and considered one of the most visited ecotourism site in the province.
Bulusan Lake itself, which is situated at the very foot of Mt. Bulusan — one of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Rim of Fire, is a spectacular ecotourism destination for its scenic and exquisite beauty.
Rising 340 meters above sea level, the lake occupies an area of more than 16 hectares and is dubbed as the “Swtizerland of the Orient” for its pristine perfection and the coolness of its mountain breeze.
Another tourist attraction at the Bulusan downtown is the Punta Diamante, the muralla (stone fort) that encloses the church complex of St. James the Greater Parish, which remains grand in its antiquity together with the belfry, the largest of the four watchtowers dotting the historical complex.
Donsol, the province’s most popular ecotourism destination, was fourth least dangerous town with 16 index and 13 non-index crimes followed by Barcelona,17-8; Juban, 21-35; Irosin, 24-22; Magallanes, 24-31; Castilla, 29-32; Pilar, 30-47; and Gubat, 34-15.
Home to the whale sharks, which draw thousands of tourist yearly, Donsol is a third-class municipality sitting at the westernmost coastal part of the province sharing boundaries with the town of Jovellar, Albay.
Barcelona is a humble tourist destination that presents a simple and laid-back aura and a carefully landscaped beachfront park where the Presidencia Building and the century-old school for the Spaniards remain standing to bare the interesting history of the place.
Across the street opposite the park is the Saint Joseph Parish church built by the Franciscan friars in 1874 out of coral stones, beaten egg and a local wine, which is very evident in the façade, belfry and on its thick wall.
The church is known as one of the oldest and well-preserved churches in the Bicol Region whose unfading beauty is astounding.
Over-all, the province’s index crimes, the report said, increased by 57 percent compared to last year’s data for registering a total of 456 cases with the number of rape incidents growing by 86 percent and murder and homicide by 23 and 26 percents, respectively.
The total crime volume for the first half of this year in Sorsogon province was tallied at 925, an increase of 57.6 percent from its 587 in the same period of last year, it said.
Anyway, Tejada said, 30.7 percent of those index crimes and 53.1 percent of non-index have been solved. (PNA)