EDITORIAL - Playing coy to hijacked innocence

The Freeman

The gang-rape of a young woman in Cebu last week apparently had its beginnings in that cluster of bars and drinking joints along Gen. Maxilom Avenue. It has long been suspected that drinks and drugs freely mix in these nightspots but police are only now looking into the matter on account of the woman's narrative, in which she claimed she may have been drugged by a man who forced her to drink something.

The matter is now under investigation, so it is best left at that. But this area has truly become notorious as a place where trouble seems to be the norm. No other concentration of nightspots in the city has made it to the news pages on account of violent incidents as frequently as this one. The regular presence of police in the area has not seemed to help stem the tide of raucous behavior that has become the hallmark of the place.

Even without the usual violence, the place has simply become unruly and unsafe for passersby. Even motorists passing through the area at night have to be extra vigilant and careful because it has become a virtual traffic no-man's land. Jeepneys and taxis stop and wait in the middle of the road hawking for passengers. People cross the street as if they were walking across their living rooms, unmindful of passing traffic, as if to actually taunt motorists.

Prostitution is rampant as well, but the authorities have remained oblivious to the fact because nobody has made any fuss about it. People only take notice about prostitution when it generates controversy and makes its way to the news pages. Women's and children's rights groups and advocates only take action when jolted by events that expose their lack of consistency in pursuing their advocacies.

In the meantime, those who prey on the vulnerabilities of women and children go on merrily about their ways every night in this area, which has become the new red light district in town. There is no stopping the thriving industry when intervention is more of the exception rather than the rule. It is no longer like a cat and mouse game but more of the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't trick.

Why the area even thrives considering that it is near at least four schools, one a private Catholic institution, is a reflection of official policy toward business and the protection of the general welfare. Here in this area, illegitimate business goes neatly hand-in-hand with the legitimate, and maybe that is why the authorities cannot seem to see anything wrong, or prefer to see only what is on the surface.

Nevertheless, the authorities should try visiting the place unannounced -- no "surprise raid" on a day and time duly publicized days in advance. They can go incognito, even pay for their own food and drinks, and try to observe what goes on in one of the places that have given the city such an unsavory name. Maybe the experience can educate the authorities enough to consider recovering the area and giving it back the decency of good community living it used to have.














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