Divisorry state in Manila

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2020 - 12:00am

The best and very colorful Facebook posts regarding the beautification of the City of Manila may entice you to go downtown and experience the “restoration” of historic sights and bridges, but be forewarned pictures often say a thousand words and one of those words could be the word “fake” as in Fake News. After all the praise release we’ve seen and read about the City of Manila under Mayor Isko Moreno, the sad fact is that Manila remains dirty, congested and one big mess. This is not to say that it is worse off than other cities in Metro Manila, but for a city and a mayor that often flaunts its projects, it is only fair that they be judged according to their claims.

Last Wednesday, I went “downtown” and drove through Manila streets headed towards the Divisoria district. After parking at a centrally located mall, we went on foot covering a radius of approximately 1.5 kilometers. Within the first five minutes of walking through the iconic streets of Divisoria, we quickly concluded that it was unsafe and highly dangerous for our health, if not life threatening. Contrary to all the photo ops and Facebook posts of the Mayor’s office regarding the observance of health protocols against Covid-19, we saw so many people improperly wearing face masks to cover their mouths but not their nose or face. There were so many tambays doing this that we started dodging people for fear of getting Covid-19. Even worse was the fact that social distancing was not being observed nor enforced. On Ilaya and Sta. Elena, it was almost shoulder-to-shoulder with people and no authorities or police to enforce the health protocols. City Hall itself contributed to the human congestion because they put up stalls on the streets complete with the logo of City Hall on each stall. These stalls were still “squatting” on city streets and blocking the flow of human and vehicular traffic and blocking the storefronts and entrances of legitimate property owners, tenants and tax paying businesses! Unlike the illegal stalls of the past that were about 2 to 3 meters wide, the City hall stalls were narrower so more people gathered in front of the stalls. The impression I have is that the Manila City Hall simply took over the illegal businesses and legitimized squatting on the street by placing their seal on each “puesto”.

Sorry but as much as I would like to find praise worthy things to write about the City of Manila and Mayor Isko Moreno, what I saw and experienced walking around Divisoria and driving through Manila gave me reason for grave concern. In a matter of weeks, there will be more and more people drawn to Divisoria and Chinatown planning to buy various products in preparation for the Christmas season. If what we experienced in Divisoria continues, there is a frightening possibility that a serious outbreak of Covid-19 will happen before Christmas and all because the officials of Manila prioritized politics, income and popularity before public safety.  I can only hope that someone from the IATF or DILG gets to read this and makes a quick ocular inspection before an outbreak takes place.

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While DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra is busy investigating the DPWH for corruption, it would only be fair if the good Secretary also investigated the Bilibid State penitentiary and its officers for obvious graft and corruption. The recent gang war that led to the death of at least three inmates and many more seriously wounded as well as the presence of guns, sling arrows and other deadly weapons is proof that officials are incompetent and that corruption clearly exists. A spokesperson claims that they were trying to rid the penitentiary of the gang culture but it was next to impossible to prevent deadly weapons from entering the population unless they bulldozed everything to the ground.

That official apparently has not heard of metal detectors that can scan a nail on any crevice or material it has been concealed or imbedded into. The same metal detector that can be used to detect coins or precious metals can be used for detecting weapons. K-9 dogs are now being trained to sniff out Covid-19 patients, not just weapons and drugs. The refusal or failure to use modern scanning and surveillance technology is not just about budget but can be surmised as a way of perpetuating the corruption in the prison system, where those with cash can get any kind of stash.

After that last riot and the claim of the official that they can’t stop the illegal or deadly stuff from coming in, perhaps it is now time to dismantle these big penitentiaries, break them down to modern regional detention centers or provincial jails. This has been talked about for the last three years but nothing has happened. This would have the equivalent effect of dismantling monopolies in businesses. The Bilibid state penitentiary is a giant monopoly. Good or bad it is too big, inhumane and inefficient. Regional or provincial detention facilities will be more manageable, can be located in areas where they can be self-sufficient in terms of food, healthier and prisoners can be located in a facility nearer to their families and most important is you shrink the monopoly down to size.

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The beauty of passing the buck is that it is no longer your fault or your problem. When Malacañang returned the DOH proposal to place a price cap on Covid-19 testing, President Duterte effectively washed his hands just like Pontius Pilate, the only difference is, in the case of Covid-19, hundreds if not thousands will suffer while hospitals, laboratories and importers continue to make a killing! Again we ask the DOH: What is taking you people so long to put a price cap on Covid-19 testing?

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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