Safe, elsewhere

LOOKING ASKANCE - Atty. Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

It is the second consecutive trip to Cebu that I have taken after my vaccine shots. The signs of decay are still around, and it looks like the authorities have still not gotten a grip on the ills that plague the metropolis.

The sights are much more encouraging in the province. Alcoy, my original destination, was buzzing with economic activity. Motorbikes were buzzing around, and construction seemed to have woken up from its stupor.

In the city, I stay in a condominium in Mabolo. To navigate the streets, I often stroll to the Cebu Business Park. But despite this being the purported economic and business center of the city, the short walk is peppered with the sleeping forms of the homeless. Of course, one hopes they are sleeping. The passers-by flick glances at the sleepers, and then they quickly flick and flit away. One does not see them checking to see if the sleepers are breathing.

Those same sleepers were pretty much the same faces, or rather, forms, that I saw last month. Despite the passage of a month, therefore, city officials either did not notice or don’t care about their existence. No social services, no safe harbor. The official response seems to be, just let sleeping denizens lie.

In IT Park, another economic hub, the BPO crowd is still very much keeping the economy alive. Central Bloc is chock-a-block with diners, coffee drinkers, and alkies. But the waves of child beggars, whether peddling religious guilt, singing carols for coins, or outright mendicants, are unceasing. Security is much more concerned with policing masks and shields than with the welfare of the children --if they are concerned at all.

Small wonder thus that this nation was named the worst-safe country in the world. The entire world. I can’t even wrap my head around that. Out of 134 countries surveyed, this country was absolutely dead-last. As in, no one beneath us. Not one!

What a catastrophe. And what an incentive to just up and go. What are we really paying our taxes for? So politicians can enrich themselves? So inefficient city officials can twiddle their thumbs while the homeless groan in hunger and thirst on our sidewalks? Why do citizens persist in staying in this, their home country, when safety nets beckon elsewhere? We are such masochists.

Global Finance magazine included such factors as healthcare infrastructure, government capabilities, political leadership, and culture in its assessment of which countries were the safest and the least safe. I would have voluntarily told them even more dirt just to get the point across.

I mean, who doesn’t notice the “Run Sara Run” banners in the whole province, from Cebu City to Alcoy, strung up in complete contempt for the spirit of fair electioneering? And who doesn’t notice all the other politicians who want to get on her bandwagon and clearly, very close to her bottom side, by majorly sucking up to her, and by making sure their own banners are displayed alongside Sara Duterte’s?

Why spend so much resources on campaigning for an election that will only happen next year, when there are a multitude of issues like poverty and health and homelessness that they haven’t addressed? Our “leaders” are clearly thinking only about their safety from accountability.

Yes, this country is not safe. And Cebu is visible proof of that.


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