Dear Mr. President, I Don't Feel Safe In My Own Country

In July 2012, Raissa Robles wrote an article entitled "Dear Mr. President, i dont feel safe in my own country". she was complaining about how unsafe it is to live in the Philippines. She narrates her fears eloquently.

Photo from Alamy

Read her full open letter below:

Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles

I know, I know. Police statistics show an overall drop in crime. You said that in your State of the Nation address.

But that does not give me, nor many Filipinos, much comfort.

I just don’t feel safe in my own country. I don’t wear any jewelry that my mother gave me because it might be snatched or worse, I might be held up just for it. Sometimes, when I see men and women sporting thick gold necklaces which they bought in foreign lands, I am tempted to caution them to remove the dangerous baubles.

Whenever I walk the streets of Metro Manila, I make sure my handbag is not hanging from my shoulder that’s near the kerb just in case robbers on motorbikes try  to snatch it. When I’m in a vehicle I make sure all the doors are locked. Before boarding a cab, I look at the cab driver to gauge whether he might be a robber in disguise.

I don’t anymore ride the bus for fear of robbery.

After the recent shooting in Colorado, where a masked man entered a movie house and opened fire with an automatic rifle on the audience, I asked myself whether something like that could happen in Metro Manila. Maybe in the conflict-torn parts of Mindanao but not in Metro Manila, I thought.

However, last week I had appointments that took me from Trinoma mall to the computer wing of SM North Edsa and back. It was quite a long walk. But what struck me was the number of security guards with wands I had to open my handbag for and be patted by. I had to submit to seven separate pat downs and bag searches that day.

This is something that westerners find weird here but which has become a fact of life in Metro Manila. Despite such security, armed robbers still manage to strike inside malls.

Another thing that a German friend found odd in our national capital region is the pervasive use of barbed wire strung atop gates and walls of houses. Again, it is something that many residents including myself have taken for granted. Another thing taken for granted is the number of dead bolt locks that homes need for the front door and all other doors that can be opened from the outside.

There is a very disturbing trend in Metro Manila of various streets putting up gates and shutting them at night to keep away robbers. After dark, Metro Manila  turns into a garrison city.

This is not the way to live.

I am not blaming President Aquino for how much peace and order have deteriorated in the capital region and elsewhere. But I would like to request that this be given a priority in his administration.

The first and most serious crisis that hit the Aquino administration was a problem of peace and order – that of a rogue cop holding hostage a tourist bus to press for his reinstatement in the police force.

Aquino left the matter to Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim to handle. That was understandable. He was after all a former police general. But Mayor Lim flubbed it big time. To this day, the report on whether or not Lim should be made partly liable for mishandling the crisis has not been made public. That is, if there is such a report.

Which brings me to my appeal to fellow citizens in the run-up to the 2013 polls.

Aside from making the Philippine President accountable, let’s start making provincial governors, city and town mayors and police station chiefs accountable for crime in their areas.

One thing that has struck me is how residents give a free pass to local chief executives and police station chiefs when it comes to crime.

When a bank robbery  at Robinson’s Galleria mall last March killed one person and wounded six, did we hear a peep from Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista? Naaah, he kept a low profile. And amazingly, no one noticed. No one demanded that the mayor act on the matter.

Mayors and governors are responsible by law for maintaining peace and order in their area, along with the police officials assigned there. The mayors and governors have the budget for this. If crimes, especially what we call “petty crimes” are rampant, then they are all falling down on their jobs.

And that is where the Philippine President comes in – to rally and apply pressure on the local chief executives to reduce crime in their areas. After all, many of them are supposed to be his own political party mates and he is the head of the Executive Department, under whom mayors and governors fall.

If you feel unsafe in your city and neighborhood like I do, then it’s time to shop around for a new mayor, new councilors and new station police chiefs.

Local elections are just NINE MONTHS AWAY.

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