Sunday, May 31, 2009

UN nixes killings in Davao City

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations had released a report which reflected the growing vigilante-style of executions in Davao City, one of the largest cities that is located in the heart of Mindanao. Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur, claimed in a report published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer that this style of killings has significantly worsened since 2007.

Indeed, it is alarming to note that Davao City is the only city in the Philippines whose local government led by Mayor Rod Duterte, a lawyer by profession, is steadfast in its campaign to get rid of bad elements in his local premises. One of the reasons could be that city government wanted to attract investors and the only means to do this is to maintain real peace and order. He always believed that when peace and order is well-maintained, there is no question that the trust of the people is restored. It also means that ordinary citizens can stroll along the streets in the dead of night without being mugged, raped or killed. But seldom this happens in most of Metro Manila and elsewhere in the country. Because of poverty, some people tend to make a living by pestering other people who are vulnerable in awkward circumstances.Their mindset is already programmed to get things by hook or by crook in order to survive in this world of dog-eat-dog competition. Probably, I could not blame Mayor Duterte for being questioned even by the Commission of Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a government agency led by Chairperson Leila de Lima. Recently, she sent a team of CHR investigators to probe on the vigilante killings in the city. I'm not saying that vigilante killing is right. As the saying goes: "Nobody is above the law."

I was still a teenager, when then Manila police chief Alfredo Lim ruled the city with an iron fist. During his tenure, he succeeded in minimizing the illegal activities of criminal elements in his turf. Reports said that those marked drug dealers, robbers and the like who continue to commit crimes against humanity are floating in the Pasig River or polluted creeks in Manila. At least, Manila was peaceful even for a short period of time. But as the saying goes: "When the cat is away, the mouse will play." It didn't take time before the feisty mayor was given series of assignments during the Marcos regime down to Cory Aquino's time.

The importance of having executive officials that earn the respect of both the people and the hoodlums is something that is needed in these trying times. In the case of Davao City, many people are now happy because they live in peace and harmony. Those bad elements who can't seem to stand the heat would simply transfer somewhere else where the local government leadership is weak. Unlike Davo City, Metro Manila is a highly urbanized area composed of many cities and towns. In this kind of environment, local government officials have the say on what to do with their peace and order programs. But as always, this mandate is polarized everytime the advent of elections comes in. As elections close in, many squatters just pop up in several public places unnoticed. It is public knowledge that most of these fly-by-night voters were hoarded by some elective officials to win more votes in the locality. When this happens, so is the peace and order situation in that particular area worsens. As more people sprout all over, the locality's delivery of basic services is strained. And what do you expect when people have nothing to eat? Besides, in big cities the temptation to commit crimes is always great.

This is the reason why some cities become chaotic. When there is chaos because of poverty, some people are left without a choice but to engage in illegal activities to fill up their needs. I firmly believe that the United Nations is contributing so much for the upliftment of poverty in the Philippines and other parts of the world. But in the case of vigilante killings, it is a distinctly a different phenomena. Perhaps, each should be viewed with the different level of understanding. Although, it is common belief that some people bite the bullet when put in an awkward economic situation because of poverty. Economists would surely agree that in a country where delivery of basic services are maintained on a a regular basis, crimes seldom happen. I still would look forward to that day when most cities in the Philippines will emulate what the local government of Davao City has done to maintain peace and order at its current level.

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