BACOLOD netizens, local businessmen in walking or kapehan groups, and other socially-minded individuals are aghast at how thieves and Akyat-Bahay gangs have become more emboldened in their activities. This, despite the increased police authority under the pandemic.
Who is to be held accountable for the series of unsolved big street crimes, the ruthless killings of key businessmen? No major crimes perpetrated in Bacolod have been solved. Largely, it is silent until hopefully, the citizenry "has forgotten."
In the few months after EDSA, I was part of an ad-hoc "messianic" small group-- key actors in Negros who were committed to continuing active-non-violent social change. One of our pressing concerns was the transformation of the military, police force, and the judiciary (especially the way judges interpreted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program). Along with this concern, I spearheaded the formation of the defunct Socio-Legal Development Foundation (SOLEDEV) that organized the innovative human resource development of gatekeepers in the Negros Island Command (NICOM) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Thus, from the level of NICOM commander through the PNP provincial director down to the city and municipal heads, we held a series of seminars with the end goal of holistic reorientation under the new social dispensation.
At the city level, working alongside the late Bro. Roly Dizon, then president of La Salle Bacolod, we got ourselves involved in the selection of City PNP Chief. After the alleged drug-tainted, pro-Marcos Bacolod police chief, we made sure that we had a say in the final selection of the next head. SOLEDEV through the Institute for Social Research and Development (the virtual social research arm of Gov. Bitay Lacson), we worked closely with the provincial PNP director to engage representatives of the local police force in their social retooling. So for nearly a decade, we had reasonably good PNP leadership both at the city and provincial levels, though drug-related problems continued to be a social concern. At the time, local government leadership was more transparent, and social advocates like me recognized the value of being involved in new social-political set-ups like civil society involvement in local governance.
As head of the Institute for Social Research and Development, I felt free to write policy and advocacy papers and present them for action at the level of the governors and mayors, and move local government unit heads to act on our recommendations for social development.
ISRAD exerted efforts at goading local heads to act on pressing concerns of the countryside poor. Organizing and empowering impoverished fisherfolks in Manapla to help them deal with illegal fishing, led the mayor to dub us, "Sabad nga mga NGOs." At each instance where PNP involvement was needed like giving teeth to "Citizens' Arrest" provision in the then-new Local Government Code, the police leadership cooperated.
Such was PNP leadership in the province and city, from the post-EDSA days through the 1990s, then I lost track of the PNP succession issues, and shifted to other advocacies. Presently, cursory observation through local news monitoring has alerted me to the need to begin closer monitoring of the rapidly "deteriorating" security situation in Bacolod. Gauging from news feeds regarding the peace and order of Bacolod indicate that either Bacolodnons have been victims of inept PNP leadership, or the city police force has been infiltrated by more officers who are beholden to drug syndicates. Since the selection of PNP leadership has to an extent been influenced by politicians, and civil society has lost interest or hold in the selection of PNP directorship, there has been a corresponding watering down in the quality of police performance in the cIty.
Looking at other cities in the province, it appears that a city's peace and order condition is positively correlated to the degree of hands-on administration of the incumbent mayor. Take the city of Victorias for instance. Under Mayor Francis Palanca, the incidence of robbery and theft, other peace and order social stats have significantly gone down (some crimes near zero). Drugs related problems have dropped to almost nil. A key factor to this is close barangay monitoring and the establishment of an effective, well funded Drug Rehab Center. Bacolod City's performance, compared to Victorias City, falls way behind.
Bacolod mayor, a multi-termer mayor, and record-breaking local city official, from City Tourism Officer, through councilor, vice mayor and mayor, has somehow administered Bacolod through delegation of vital and critical functions. Being the president of the National Mayors' League and member of the inner fold of Duterte Advisers, all those social and ceremonial functions have reduced our city chief executive to be a titular head.
I have never written any outright critical commentary on our city mayor--this is my first column articulating what I consider more objective articulation of observations of one seasoned social researcher, and NGO head. Counting all the years he has been in local governance of Bacolod (nearly 40 years?), it is high time he passes on the baton to others and moves on to meaningful retirement in his late 60s.
June 21, 2020
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