Atienza: Citizen vigilance: A must for all Cebuanos


Batman. Robin. Robin Hood. DDS: Davao Death Squad.

No, I am not referring to them. Those are vigilantes. Persons disenchanted with a slow-moving legal justice system, vigilantes often take law enforcement into their own hands. And in the process, they resort to committing unacceptable acts of violence—all in the name of seeking justice.

Citizen Vigilance: Now, that is a totally different matter.

Most people are naturally vigilant over safety and security in personal and family matters. I make sure I keep my handbag close to me when I move around malls and markets. A friend gifted me with a credit card case with an identity theft blocker. Much appreciated! Most major subdivisions have installed guards and guard houses to vet motorists coming into their neighborhoods. Not to mention the countless CCTV cameras installed in thousands of homes and business establishments around the city today.

Undoubtedly, it is good and a necessity to be vigilant about our personal safety and security. But as citizens, how vigilant are we about our community? Are we actively involved in looking out for possible dangers or threats to our much-loved Cebu and Cebuano society?

I salute two of Cebu’s women leaders who have ably demonstrated the virtue of vigilance. Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia for keeping careful watch over the African swine fever (ASF) situation and Naga City Acting Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong for calling out informal settlers in the hazardous “no habitation zones” following last year’s deadly Naga landslide.

Despite calls from Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar and pressure from Cebu lechon makers referencing the rising price of pork, Governor Garcia has opted to err on the side of caution by extending the restrictions on pork and pork-related products from outside Cebu.

I agree there is no point in risking the multi-million-pork industry in Cebu until the ASF outbreak has been completely obliterated. More so since a friend of mine, a major pork supplier in Luzon, revealed that he had warned DA of a potential ASF outbreak more than a year ago and nothing was done about it. Where was DA vigilance then?

Naga City is a slightly different situation. If Garcia’s ASF mantra is “to err on the side of caution,” Mayor Chiong’s battle cry ought to be “better safe than sorry.” It seems that 103 informal settler families have reverted back to Naga‘s Ground Zero by setting up house again--on the hazardous “no habitation zones” which the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB 7) declared unsafe. With the onset of the rainy season, Chiong has been sending out advisories, but to no avail. Where is citizen vigilance now?

Citizen vigilance means keeping a watch on possible dangers or threats to our community, paired with a willingness to participate and advocate what is good, not only for our individual families, but for the community. And how do we as simple and ordinary individuals take on the mantle of citizen vigilance?

There are a number of ways to go about it. But first and foremost, we have to accept that we all have a responsibility to be aware of issues surrounding our community and doing something about it. Is it the traffic? Environmental degradation? Is it crime and the increase of rape cases committed by young individuals who say “they do it just for the fun of it”? The lack of hospitals for the poor? The rise of Aids, dengue and polio?

Citizen vigilance means being aware of what’s happening around us and doing something positive to make life better for others. Make your opinions heard in SunStar and in various online blogs. Join a civic club. Zonta, for example, focuses on women empowerment and stopping child marriage. Rotary currently advocates stopping polio. These are all good causes to help the community.

Volunteer in church or church-related activities like the Abtanan sa Kaluoy which helps street children. Participate in political discussions, especially on fighting corruption. Become a member of an art or cultural society. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Whatever it is, look outside yourself and seek programs that help Cebu society. Keeping Cebu thriving, clean, healthy, safe and prosperous is not the sole purview of Gov. Garcia, Mayor Chiong and other elected officials alone. As citizens, we cannot be ostriches burying our faces in the sand, hoping the world will go on despite filth, corruption, immorality, greed and ignorance making inroads into our once idyllic Cebu.


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