No less than Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama partially blamed lapses in maintaining security to the non-functioning of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) units installed by the government in strategic places around the metro.
“Asa na man ang mga CCTVs?” Rama asked this rhetorical question during a press conference held following a succession of high-profile crimes in November 2023, reported cebucity.news, the portal of the People’s Progressive Radio Media Network, the Cebu City Government’s media arm.
The same report mentioned Rama’s plan to monitor strategic areas in the city from a command center set up at the Cebu City Hall as part of the government’s campaign to deter criminality.
Rama also vowed to follow up on local businesses’ compliance of City Ordinance 2381, which mandates the establishments to put up a CCTV system.
So, can Cebu City stakeholders be currently more confident about the enforcement of law and order in a city that aspires to be one of the most livable in the world?
Livability, which measures human well-being, has six principles, with the sixth emphasizing stakeholders’ investments to create a network of “healthy, safe, and walkable” neighborhoods, whether in the rural, urban, or suburban setting, as defined in the Sustainable Cities Initiative.
Cebu City needs an efficient CCTV system to not only augment the police’s capabilities for surveillance and timely intervention in criminality.
Surveillance of the authorities is crucial for deterring or providing evidence on violators of traffic regulations during the so-called “dead hours,” that interval from late evening to the early hours of the morning when the visibility of police and traffic enforcers is lowest or non-existent.
From Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, SunStar Cebu observed several incidents when motorists, particularly those on motorcycles, jumped or broke the red light, a traffic violation that happens when a motorist continues to enter an intersection instead of stopping when the traffic sign turns red.
The incidents occurred between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. along Juan Luna Avenue (formerly San Jose dela Montaña Avenue) and Gorordo Avenue.
Even though traffic is relatively light at this time, the red-light rule is upheld without exception because breaking this increases the risks of accidents involving pedestrians and other motorists.
During the early hours of morning, SunStar Cebu noted that street cleaners were already sweeping sidewalks, curbs, and streets.
Increasing their vulnerability, the street cleaners do not wear high-visibility uniforms with luminous or phosphorescent markings to increase their visibility and safety in the dark.
Despite the early hours, commuters are already on the road, either due to their work shifts or avoiding the anticipated rush hours of daylight. Parents with gradeschoolers may be seen walking in the vicinity of public schools.
Another traffic risk is posed by bicyclists whose bikes do not have reflectors, as well as motorists whose motorcycles have a busted light or no lights at all. Since many of the streets are poorly lit or have overgrown plants in the islands casting deep shadows on the streets, the risk of traffic accidents is high during the early hours just before daylight.
Last March 2023, the Cebu City Councilor Jaypee Labella authored a resolution calling for the concerned offices of the Cebu City Government to update the Cebu City Council about the planned upgrades of the city’s CCTV system, whose cameras were reportedly on “downtime.”
The Cebu City Council expressed particular interest on the CCTV cameras stationed at traffic light junctions.
So, to echo Rama’s exasperated query last November 2023, are the city’s CCTV cameras back from downtime? The question is far from rhetorical as the consequences of a non-existent CCTV system affect Cebu City’s safety and order, and ultimately, its livability.