Thursday, 30 June 2011

Crime In (and outside) the News: Who holds the responsibility to protect?


I arrived in Tagbilaran after three weeks of academic theorizing on development and inequality at Brown University.  Several news, unpleasant ones, greeted me, over a breakfast of corned beef and rice.  There was new case of burglary with arson at Paz Pharmacy, located along Gallares Streets. The Bohol Chronicle reported, on its Wednesday edition (June 22), that the pattern was similar to what happened to B and J Computer in May this year.

As I am writing this, I am facilitating a workshop in Naic, Cavite.  My wife called me, a few minutes ago that two of our neighbours experienced attempted cases of burglary, resulting to a loss of P1,000 to one of them. I shudder at the thought that Tagbilaran is no longer safe, as I still want to cling to the memory of a not so distant past when roaming the streets was not a problem at all, and robbery and burglary of this scale were never heard of.

In 2011 alone, several alarming cases happened. In January, the church of Loboc was burglarized were suspects took a priceless silver antique plate. In April, one of the barristas at Bo’s Coffee-Plaza Rizal was stabbed to death along CPG Avenue, right at the very heart of the city. In May, robbery was done at Tagbilaran Bombay Bazaar in broad daylight, resulting to a loss of approximately P200,000 to its owner Roma Navani. 

These facts are alarming. What is more alarming though is the steep increase in crimes in the city, from a total of 663 in 2009, to 1318 in 2010.  But what about 2011?

Indeed, whose business is it to ensure that we, as citizens are safe? To whose hands lie the responsibility to protect? If it is the government’s business to ensure that peace and security is afforded to every resident, why have all these things happened?

It is always convenient to blame administrative deficiencies (lack of patrol cars, poor street lighting) or human resource problems (low police to citizen ratio) as the cause of the government’s failure to protect the lives of its citizens.  It is also convenient to say that every citizen has the responsibility to assist the government in the maintenance of peace and order and their failure to do so adversely affect community protection.  But when you see politicians tailed by several men with long guns and driving through the streets with accompanying patrol cars, you wonder whether an ordinary citizen is not worthy of such a high degree of protection.  You wonder whether everyone has the right to live a safe life.

Those who do not trust governments anymore erect high walls and install home protection devices.  Others hire their own security guards and protective agents that they tag along with them wherever they go.  At the end of the day, it is the poor whose life is always at stake because not only do they lack the money to buy food to eat, they also have to grapple with the fact that their government cannot protect them.

Cases of physical violence, those that threaten people’s lives and their properties, occur almost every day in the Philippines in the lives of both rich and poor. The only difference is that those that affect the rich reach the papers and deserve the attention of our local governments and the concern of our law enforcers. Those that affect the poor are oftentimes unheard.

Now I understand why Manong Titing, a good friend of mine, sleeps with a bolo under his head.  When government fails to protect, the poor tricycle driver, father of three adorable daughters, has to take the responsibility of  protecting himself and his family to his own hands.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Bohol is still poor: is it good news or bad?

For the last three to five years we were made to believe that Bohol indeed leaped out of the poorest provinces. But a new presentation of NSCB, posted in their website in Feb 2011, showed that Bohol, along with Maguindanao, Masbate, Agusan del Sur, Zambo del Norte, Surigao del Norte, is consistently included in the bottom cluster of provinces in 2003, 2006, and 2009. How come this does not make it to the headlines?

When I posted the above opening statement in Facebook and when I brought it up with my friends, I got different reactions, from the lyrical to the absurd.  Atty. John Titus Vistal of the Provincial Planning and Development Office called me up to say that this was a result of methods revision on the part of NSCB. PRMF Provincial Director Rosalinda Paredes emailed me and other interested parties regarding the need to bring the discussion up to the table again. One friend however, told me that this is good for Bohol as this becomes a justification for project proposals on anti-poverty programs.

Honestly, I feel cheated. In the papers I wrote for the last 2 to 3 years, I couched some of my arguments in the context that Bohol was able to reduce its poverty incidence phenomenally (especially when you consider the time frame of achievement). In several conference presentations, in Belgium, in Ireland, among others, I questioned these achievements and put forth counter arguments....only to realize now that we are still, like the conflict-prone provinces in the South, in the bottom 20 of laggards in terms of poverty reduction achievements.

Consider for example, the table below which I presented in the conference in Singapore;
1997
2000
2003
2006
Sulu
Masbate
Zamboanga del Norte
Tawitawi
Masbate
Sulu
Maguindanao
Zamboanga del Norte
Eastern Samar
Romblon
Masbate
Maguindanao
Ifugao
Ifugao
Surigao del Norte
Apayao
Mt. Province
Lanao del Sur
Agusan del Sur
Surigao del Norte
Lanao del Sur
Sultan Kudarat
Surigao del Sur
Lanao del Sur
Romblon
Maguindanao
Misamis Occidental
Northern Samar
Abra
Tawi-tawi
Mt. Province
Masbate
North Cotabato
Abra
Biliran
Abra
Camarines Norte
Agusan del Sur
Lanao del Norte
Misamis Occidental
Davao Oriental
Mt. Province
Camarines Norte
Agusan del Sur
Northern Samar
Capiz
Kalinga
Occidental Mindoro
Agusan del Sur
Camarines Norte
Sulu
Oriental Mindoro
Antique
Eastern Samar
Sarangani
Sulu
Marinduque
Camiguin
Antique
Kalinga
Surigao Del Norte
Marinduque
Palawan
Surigao del Sur
Surigao Del Sur
Lanao del Norte
Sultan Kudarat
Mountain Province
Camarines Sur
Bohol
Abra
Sarangani
Caraga
Catanduanes
Occidental Mindoro
Lanao del Norte
Siquijor
Zamboanga del Norte
Zamboanga Sibugay
Negros Oriental
Table 1. Ranking of Poorest Provinces in the Country – 1997-2006 (Source: NSCB 2006)
(Red – present in list for 4 periods;  Orange – present in list for 3 periods; Rust – present in list for 2 periods)

In the above table, Bohol only registered a place in one year. But in the recent presentation of NSCB, the figure below surfaces:

  
  Table 2. Poverty Ranking Of Provinces Over time (NSCB 2011)

So what does this tell us?


While it is apparent that there is a revision of methodology, Dr. Virola in his presentation contended that


       "In general, poverty estimates using both the old and refined methodologies showed similar trend/pattern. In terms of levels, estimates based on the old methodology were higher than those of the refined methodology."



Why should we bother?



In a paper I wrote in 2007, I argued the following:



"Despite deficiencies in methodology, poverty statistics in the Philippines has recently become not only as a means of identifying the most deprived regions or provinces and the needed interventions, but also as an evaluation tool of the performance of local government units (LGUs).  Thus, it does not only direct attention to what particular areas of the country require intervention, but it also highlights the ability or the failure of certain LGUs to serve the interests of poor people.  When the NSCB releases provincial poverty statistics and ranking of top twenty poorest provinces, this normally becomes a hot media commodity to which LGU leaders are most sensitive.  Thus, inclusion into what is infamously called as the Club 20 (the term that refers to the twenty poorest provinces of the country), is already a cause of alarm to LGU officials who are concerned of their prominence in the political sphere or the support of their constituents."

Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

I realize that the implications are circular rather than linear.  Also, the data assuming its veracity, may affect different stakeholders in different ways.  But as a province concerned with making our communities progressive and our constituents endowed with capabilities to realize their dreams, this is a cause of worry and concern.