IT would be an oversimplification to blame poverty for all crimes of murder and robbery with homicide. While guns-for-hire and the petty thieves who kill their victims are poor, many masterminds are not. Still, it would be foolhardy to ignore or downplay the big role poverty plays in the commission of crimes against life and property.
The ugly drug scene in known spots in the City is another major engine of crime. A drug habit eventually makes hogwash of a user’s brains. And shattered minds are no respecters of human life. But in the case of the poor user, he or she resorts to a life of crime to support his or her habit even before the brain starts to liquefy from drug abuse.
Hence, it is rather unfortunate that Mayor Michael Rama should miss this point in the report for his first one hundred days in office. This corner was happy to note earlier how he dared to contradict the former mayor’s claims that Cebu City was clean and pretty. It was definitely a good start. But now we must deplore the sad prospect that business might simply be better than usual at City Hall.
Beyond cleanliness and beautification, Mayor Rama has to come up with a road map for the substantial reduction of poverty in the city, also as a major deterrent to crime. This essentially means a business promotion and jobs creation program. One good start is to respond positively to the President’s call to shorten the business permit application process to encourage entrepreneurs to set up businesses that provide much needed jobs.
At no other time is the poor more financially challenged than when a serious illness visits the family. Hardly able to make ends meet, he or she has no savings for emergencies. Hence, the city has to adopt as a big-time priority the provision for better health services to the poor so they do not resort to crime to meet these needs.
Informal settling in shanties, with all the social costs associated with it, has also to be frontally attacked with a relocation and housing program for the urban poor. Then perhaps it would be easier to organize neighborhood crime and drug watches which should also be at the top of the mayor’s agenda. Cebu City cannot be crime-ridden and attract businesses like IT and tourism at the same time.
Last but not the least of the city’s priorities is a solid basic education for all without exception. This is infinitely better than one-time cash dole-outs to selected high school graduates.
A clean and beautiful city is very welcome. But we must have clean and beautiful people first, people with jobs, decent homes, adequate health services and a solid basic education. For business to be simply better than usual at City Hall is to miss the point badly.