POPS go LGUs

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Friday, February 21, 2014


DAVAO City was jarred by news that the recent raid of an alleged cybersex den at Barangay 76-A Bucana led to the recovery of seven minors aged two to 11. Eight more such places where victims are made to inappropriately display their body over the Internet in exchange for money are said to be operating in Davao City. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his strong warnings against those who do violence against women and children.

Earlier this year, Adelino Sitoy, the Mayor of the remotely situated town of Ibabao in Cebu was quoted as saying, “In the beginning I was shocked, I could not believe this was happening in my town,” when news broke out that a pedophile group was using Ibabao as a base and source for streaming child pornography through the Internet to the rest of the world.

Local governments are facing increasingly complex crimes in their areas of responsibility. In addition to the crimes against persons (such as murder) and properties (such as robbery) that make up what are known as index crimes, and violations of special laws (non-index crimes), local officials are up against a host of problems and events that threaten citizens and communities, and make them feel vulnerable or in unstable situations. In a Survey on Good Local Governance undertaken by the Social Weather Station (SWS) in 2012, crime was increasingly seen among the most important local problems over a multi-year period from 2009 to 2012.

These are the impetus for local governments to pay attention to public order and public safety or POPS -- when challenges and factors cause people to feel insecure and fearful, when their sense of public “order” is in disarray, and citizens do not feel safe.

Rather than consider crime and disorder, hazards and emergencies as the exclusive business of the security sector (be they police or the military) and other responders, LGUs would do well to pay more and better attention to public order and public safety. In the same 2012 SWS survey, the respondents regarded barangay, municipal and city governments as responsible for addressing crime and security, more than national agencies.

It has been observed that there are “disconnects” between the claimed performance of LGUs in public order and public safety if their State of Local Government Reports (SLGRs) are used, and the reported actual condition in the locality (e.g., crime rate) as well as feedback from citizens. An SLGR could show LGU strong performance in POPS but this might not be reflected by statistics and by the sentiments of the local constituents. This could partly be because while a local government might have complied with the essential plans, mechanisms, people and processes in terms of inputs, and services by way of outputs, but the crimes and hazards actually occurring in a locality could be quite complex and numerous.

The challenge posed by cybersex is a case in point. An LGU might have set up its Children Protection Council and issued ordinances shielding children, but could find itself outwitted by the machinations of an internationally connected criminal group out to serve the twisted needs of pedophiles.

In partnership with The International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov), a non-profit policy think tank that serves as institutional nucleus for a reform-centered democratic movement in the Philippines, six local government units are striving to pursue reforms in public order and public safety.

The LGUs of La Trinidad in Benguet, Parang and Rajah Buayan in Maguindanao, Motiong in Samar, and Cagayan de Oro and Tandag are seeking to better ground public order and public safety in governance and politics, so that POPS contributes more effectively to local stability and development. Key aspects of the POPS reforms are a planned approach to POPS based on shared analysis and innovative approaches, and more effective involvement of multi-stakeholders.

Encouraged to rethink the usual views about crime, risks and conflicts that lead to rote responses, LGUs work with stakeholders to investigate priority POPS issues as they manifest in the localities, and to come up with measures and initiatives that are backed by an iterative process of analysis-action-assessment.

Without these adaptive processes and the involvement of a range of stakeholders, local governments run the risk of always being, paraphrasing the local chief executive of Ibabao, shocked by crimes, hazards, risks and conflicts that come the way of their localities.

Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 22, 2014.

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