In the five years that I’ve resided in Manila, I am thankful that I’ve never had the unfortunate experience of being face to face with crime. Perhaps the nearest thing I’ve witnessed to be criminal were the aftermath of a raid done by MMDA on Philcoa sidewalk vendors during one late night – and I was supposed to have been in the middle of the bustle if I had decided to make my purchase from those sidewalk vendors than brave the long line of the nearby Mercury Drug Grocery store.
Yet I’ve heard tales of my friends about how they’ve lost their cellphones to snatchers with the most horrific being one wherein they were attacked by muggers while aboard a UP-SM North jeep. I’ve read and heard of stories about students being shot while on campus, girls being raped and thrown in abandoned grassy creeks, of innocent students being mugged while crossing the overpass late at night and countless other horror stories of crime committed by the Manila criminal society. I have heard their stories, witnessed the telltale signs in their bodies and properties but I have never – for once in my entire life in Manila – encountered a single criminal soul. I have braved the twist and turns of the Binondo streets alone – a place I am utterly unfamiliar with – and though I have seen suspicious looking individuals, the most harrowing experience I could speak of were merely snide remarks and insults – nothing that is at all criminal and worthy of police attention.
Some might say I’m lucky. Some might say I’m fortunate. I say I am blessed and well-protected.
Yet the fact and reality of crime still remains in my consciousness and I forever remain vigilant about it. Even now that I live in the province, where one might argue the crime rate is relatively low compared to Manila, I am still on guard. For I’ve been told that criminals here are more aggressive – not really taking time to consider who it is they would rob or assault. I have a friend who told me he was mugged once and when he eventually gave up his cellphone, the mugger was disappointed with the cellphone’s model that the mugger even had the nerve to insult my friend. The cellphone was a very old and dilapidated Nokia 3315. That’s why if I was vigilant while I was in Manila, I am doubly so now that I am in Naga.
An article I read in Peyups.com today brought into mind the reality of the criminal society of the Philippines. There were times that this criminal society seemed to have existed, for me, in a fantasy world of evil since I have never really encountered any of their members. Yet that article, in a very well-written showcase of words, brought this reality into more detailed attention in my consciousness than all the newspaper articles I’ve read or the television news segments I’ve watched about the escapades of the criminal constituents of the country.
The article had greatly captured the feelings of one who’ve had one too many brushed up with Manila’s ruffians that fear had forever been instilled in her heart and in her mind. And the greatest part of the article was the author’s stand on why such things happen in our country and why they will forever remain part of our society.
The affliction that has been afflicting us since the dawn of time; since we’ve become slaves of colonizers and neo-colonizers alike; since we’ve lost all sense of self-identity and have become enamored with the culture of foreigners.
We’ve been its slave for decades now, maybe even centuries. Thousands of politicians, from the smallest barangay captain to the highest position on the land, the President, had attempted to alleviate it, but to no avail.
The root of all evil and all other afflictions in our country – malnutrition, overpopulation, unemployment, illiteracy, pollution, and most of all CRIME.
When will we ever solve this one? When will we ever be rid of it?
I agree with the author of that Peyups.com article that it is not the criminal’s sole fault that they could not see that the people they are robbing or assaulting are themselves, struggling with their own kind of poverty or are themselves impoverished yet had merely chosen to alleviate their suffering through legitimate means. Indeed it is not those criminal’s fault that they had to turn into the illegal just to survive in this world. They are after all just by-products of an older generation of criminals who taught them the criminal way to survive in this jungle. Who knows if they could have been decent citizens of this land but because of the dire circumstances of their lives they’ve been forced to become hardened criminals.
Who indeed is to blame for all of this? Is it them? Is is the government? Or is it us, as a nation and as individuals?
We blame them because they don’t try to become decent. They don’t try to find decent jobs and earn decent living. They don’t try to reform. They don’t consider others’ situations or predicaments.
We blame the government because they corrupt what should have been public funds aimed at improving public lives. They do not stick true with their promises of better lives and improved conditions. They are just full of themselves and all they really care about is their own personal gain.
But then again how can a starving man with a starving family to feed even think of decency in the light of his grumbling stomach. For a lot of people morality or conscience is almost non-existent when faced with the reality of his harsh environment. And then how can politicians really carry out their idealistic reforms when by the time they assume office, even the most decent ones become swept away by the rampant corruption of their colleagues? You see corruption is so deeply rooted that even the most honest men become eventually snared into it.
And so we take a look at the real root of the situation – what have we made of ourselves as a nation, as citizens of this country? How do we really perceive our society? Hopeless? Beyond redemption? Destined for the pits? Something we would gladly forsake and leave given the opportunity to seek greener pastures?
What do we perceive of our race or our identity as Filipinos? Something to be proud of only when Manny Pacquiao wins a fight but something to totally despise of when we learned that we have yet slipped a notch higher in the world’s list of most corrupt nations or become part of the world’s most dangerous countries? Can we not have a better sense of patriotism or nationalism? One which would lead us to critically analyze our government officials or the people we elect into office? One which would make us vigilant of guarding the outcome of our votes – not just when they are being tallied but when they really materialize into the officials we’ve voted for and hoped to have their reforms and plans realized.
Yes, most if not all our politicians are trapo, but some of them I believe are just forced to be trapo because if they don’t then they wouldn’t really have any chance against their real trapo counterparts. And so in the end the choice is still left to us, to decide which of them we would really vote for – to discern which of them is really worthy of our hope.
And hopefully, the person we do elect into office, any of the public office that is, is someone who could, even for just a fraction, make us feel safe in this crime-ridden land due to impoverished lives.