No man’s land and no one in charge
CTALK By Cito Beltran Updated March 20, 2009 12:00 AM
We have finally become what New York City was once popular for in the US: “the most crime ridden city” in the country. Government officials are shot in broad daylight, car windows being smashed for their contents inside church parking lots, motorists being attacked on an urban highway, etc. In fact, we should start printing brochures about how to safely navigate your way around Metro Manila after dark in order to avoid becoming a victim.
In the last two months, we have witnessed increasing reports of shootings, vehicular homicide, robberies, and burglaries. Now there is the growing thread of internet stories about physical assaults at “open parties” and the tales of terror along the South Super highway just off Buendia Avenue.
Many people don’t know what to make of it but it seems that more and more people are coming on the net and telling others about what they personally experienced or witnessed on a stretch of road that has long been considered “no man’s land”.
The danger zone lies between Buendia Avenue and Quirino Avenue, which historically was the home court of snatchers, nothing more. But in a bold and daring display of criminality, the local thugs are reportedly more blatant in their crimes. They try to enter unlocked vehicles or get you to come out by kicking your door or breaking some part of the car like an antenna. Go down and you get mugged!
To be quite honest, none of this is new.
Such “In your face” crimes have long been going on in places like Araneta avenue especially near E. Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City or the old “clover leaf area” of Caloocan City or near the Smokey mountain area. I’m certain that once we ask where these crimes happen in the “In-Box” section, we will all discover how commonplace these attacks and crimes are. What really worries me is that the rise in incidents is directly proportional to the growing poverty, desperation and flat-footed behavior of local government officials and the barangays.
For over six months now, I have regularly warned friends and neighbors alike to pay more attention to security and safety because I know that the financial crisis we have all been talking about has long been the reality among those who can’t read or write or afford to buy the newspaper.
While many of us live in real homes and often with some form of security or deterrent against criminals, most of the poor people in Metro Manila are poorer and more desperate. Anyone who lives outside walled and guarded villages are familiar with the increasing number of men who go around on foot looking for fruits to pick from someone else’s garden or anything of value that can be pulled, ripped or carted away. Your dogs are not safe, your cars are not safe, heck even your maids are not safe!
Where are the DILG and the PNP in all these? Is anybody still in-charge or are they all busy being tourists or re-electionists?
Every barangay official generally knows what goes on in their territory and who is behind it. Why has the criminality in the mentioned areas gotten out of hand? Is it merely poverty and desperation, omission, or collusion? Perhaps Secretary Puno should also remember that poverty and crime equals illegal drugs, which equals more violent crimes! In at least one known case with the PDEA, the barangay captain was both the drug lord and the crime boss!
Will Secretary Puno wait for someone to be stabbed dead or shot in self-defense? What if someone decides to use a half-ton truck or a car as their weapon of choice to bring down such criminals on the South Super Highway?
Where are the Police? Where are the barangay Tanods who get paid as force-multipliers?
The most common complaint on the danger zones is the common observation that in spite of the repeated attacks, no regular patrols are seen or posted. The cops are so busy checking motorcycle riders and manning their fixed checkpoints while all the criminals on foot are attacking civilians like a walk in the park.
So far only Gen. Magtanggol Gatdula has responded to the problem of criminality in the Cloverleaf area. We still have to know what the cities of Makati and Manila will do with the barangay officials and the police who left the “no man’s land” unchecked in their shared space.
Exaggerated or real, the observable fact is that the areas mentioned seriously need police presence and monitoring. Snatching and muggings may be petty crimes for the cops, but when people start flooding the internet about what goes on in Metro Manila, it does not take long for the rest of the country to know!
General Rosales of the Western Police District still gets flak from an email that was circulated about how three WPD cops extorted from a student over a year ago. Rosales took action, suspended the cops and had them investigated and charged last year. But up to this day, the negative email about the incident still makes the rounds.
As for the rest of us ordinary people, the shared information tells us to have heavily tinted vehicles, make sure your doors and door locks work well, make sure you have a very loud horn, and if you can make sure you carry a tear gas gun, a pepper spray, or a zapper. Always have the police emergency number with you (117). It would also help more people if we text blast everyone the minute we witness such crimes.
Like the shift supervisor on Hill Street Blues always says: Be careful out there!