Safety and security
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2019 - 12:00am

So, what is the fate of Oscar Albayalde on his alleged involvement with the “ninja cops”? Yes, it is unfortunate for the former chief that while the Senate Blue Ribbon committee was investigating the anomalies and crimes happening inside the Bureau of Corrections, they stumbled upon the issue.

As we all know now, the news on the “ninja cops” happened when Albayalde was Pampanga police chief and when 13 cops led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo raided a home in Mexico town and arrested a Chinese national in a 2013 drug raid.

Albayalde was then relieved from duty as Pampanga police chief after an investigation revealed that the policemen confiscated 160 kilograms of meth but only presented 36 kilograms. The cops were also accused of setting free suspect Johnson Lee in exchange for P50 million. They allegedly presented another Chinese, identified in earlier reports as Ding Wengkun.

At the Senate inquiry, PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Benjamin Magalong and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino accused Albayalde of intervening in the case. The two retired police officials said Albayalde called up to ensure that the cops would be spared from being axed. In addition to these accusations, former Central Luzon police chief Rudy Lacadin directly implicated Albayalde by saying that the former chief did not only try to influence the outcome of the investigation but also admitted partaking in the drug loot.

Of course, Albayalde denied all the allegations and rejected calls for his resignation but a few days after, he stepped down as PNP chief. Last Friday, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and the justice committee recommended the filing of criminal charges against Albayalde and the 13 cops.

Will El Presidente save Albayalde from this mess? After the PNP, what’s next for the former chief? Will he be given a new position like the others? Abangan!

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The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit Mindanao last week, gave us another wake-up call. The earthquake, which was tectonic in origin, struck Tulunan, Cotabato, at around 7:37 pm at a depth of 8 kilometers. Phivolcs recorded more than 300 weaker aftershocks in the area since the big earthquake, but authorities said they do not expect the toll to rise significantly.

Five persons were reported dead and dozens injured. Badly hit was Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur, the earthquake’s epicenter. According to local disaster management officials at least 30 people were reported injured. In Davao Occidental, Harry Camoro, officer of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management said the coastal towns of Malita and Don Marcelino became ghost towns minutes after the quake.

As of press time local officials in affected areas are still assessing the total cost of the damage inflicted by the earthquake. The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office reported that SM Ecoland, SM Lanang, and Abreeza suffered “significant damages” while school buildings are under inspection in Davao City.

By the way, two more earthquakes struck Davao region last Thursday - magnitude 5.3 in Manay, Davao Oriental, at 4:53 am; and magnitude 5.2 in Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental, at 9:28 am.

The Palace in a statement said that the Office of the President “has already tasked all concerned agencies of the government to mobilize, respond and provide immediate assistance to those in need, as well as to study plans on how to rehabilitate the damaged areas.”

When will we ever learn? Structures that were damaged seemed mostly due to poor structural integrity. The safety of the people seems to be no longer the priority of our city engineers. In fact, it seems to be the last consideration. What seems more important is making money out of building infrastructures at the pretext of providing efficient service to the people in the community. Sanamagan!

I hate to rub it in but after typhoon Hagibis hit Japan, 23,000 hectares of land flooded and 73 deaths reported as of press time, Japan is back to almost normal. Power has been restored, public trains submerged in flood are back on track. Amazing!

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Fire Update: After the earthquake down south, fire broke out. During the fire in Star City there was another one simultaneously happening in the Pasay-Manila area. A series of fires hit the metro last week: a residential area in Paco, Manila; Market 3 in Navotas and in Barangay San Antonio in Roosevelt, Quezon City.

Did you notice the fire trucks that responded to the fires? How dilapidated and old they are?  In fact, some fire trucks should already be displayed in museums. If you go around the cities, hospitals, military camps, police headquarters – you’ll see broken down, rickety, ramshackle fire trucks not to mention old, dirty and smelly fire stations.

Talk about the Fire Risk Management plan of the government. In every natural or man-made disaster, the firemen and their equipment will always be the front liners. The training of firemen is the key to managing risk reduction and ultimately prevention. So, what is happening? It scares me to think that in many remote places there is not a single fire truck with the right equipment and trained firemen.

How many fire departments must a city or a town have? How many fire trucks? How many trained firemen? Let’s get our act together!

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Until our leaders change their perspective of safety, the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury; and security, the state of being free from danger or threat (against criminal activity), we will continue to endanger and lose more lives.

Our public servants must not be excused from command responsibility where the superior is responsible of crimes and/ or mediocrity of service output. The highest level of command should be expected of them. Weakness is no excuse. As a result, we end up with too many crisis – be it a morale crisis, water crisis, energy crisis, traffic crisis, etc., etc.

As Edward Snowden, an American whistleblower in the eighties once quipped, “Being a patriot doesn’t mean prioritizing service to government above all else. Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen, from the violations of and encroachments of adversaries.”

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