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.