Thursday, March 20, 2014

EDITORIAL: Naga City: An Makahadit na Lugar?

The never-ending list of crimes committed in Naga City by riding-in-tandem suspects has given rise to a disturbing irony: as the number of crimes increases, so does society’s apathy, apparently.

Just this week along Mayon Avenue, two suspects snatched the bag of a woman who was aboard a tricycle. The incident happened at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a time when many would think that criminals would be wary to attack, as they would be unable to avail of the cover of darkness.

Such wariness, however, no longer seems to exist: this and other crimes continue to be committed in broad daylight, sometimes a mere stone’s throw away from police outposts.

Meanwhile, the routine for victims of riding-in-tandem criminals has become this: to record the incident in the police blotter, and to simply forgive and forget. Never mind seeking justice, because justice, in these cases, rarely comes.

It is perplexing that such incidents happen in Naga, a city where the ratio of police officers to residents is 1 to 400 people, greatly exceeding the recommended 1 is to 1,000 ratio.

Even more baffling, however, is that despite the alarming number of crimes, the city officials have not put their foot down and waged an all-out war against evil elements.

These past few weeks, for instance, the focus of these officials has generally been on tourism and culture. Arguably, these are likewise important, but their urgency hardly comes close to the need to address the deteriorating peace and order situation.

For what these tourism initiatives are worth, people will not flock to Naga if the city’s reputation remains to be a place where one would fear commuting at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

It is worth underscoring that peace and order should not be left solely into the hands of the police. The responsibility of ensuring the security of the people still resides primarily with the city officials, who are mandated by law to take command. It is they who must exercise political will, who must dream up ways by which we can curb, if not eradicate, criminality.

Whether they will favour Duterte’s take-no-prisoners stance or adopt their own style in deterring criminals will have to depend on their judgement—they were, after all, entrusted with making these decisions when they were elected.

Meanwhile, Nagueños for now will have to confront the fact of life that is criminality in this city which was once hailed as “an maogmang lugar.”

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