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ROUGH CUTS | Timely clarification from DPWH XI

Vic N. Sumalinog

THIS is one very unfortunate incident. And the police as well as the local government authorities should take a serious look at the system that is used as basis in the recruitment of such an important component in the enforcement of security measures in the barangays.
We are referring to the complaint of a 15-year-old female teenager from Davao Oriental that she was raped by two barangay “tanods” or village policemen after she was arrested for allegedly violating the curfew in Barangay Leon Garcia in Davao City early last week.
According to one identified by the police only as “Chinchin,” she was on her way home from a classmate’s house where she picked up a copy of her subject module. She claims to be residing in her cousin’s house.
On her way home, however, according to Chinchin’s statement to the police, she was accosted by a team of barangay “tanods” that brought her to their headquarters in the barangay hall. The teenager further told the police in the presence of broadcast media persons, that instead of turning her over to the police authorities she was held at the village policemen’s headquarters where she was forced to drink a concoction that later made her drowsy. She later realized that she was already brought to the residence of one of the two “tanods” and forcibly detained for two more days. There, she claimed she was molested while she hardly had the strength to fight her attackers. The victim’s cousin could only cry in anger and disgust when she found out what happened after her cousin returned to her family’s house.
What is happening here? How come that some people who are being tapped by the authorities to help the government protect the citizens in this time of uncertainties have also become the dreaded criminals preying on hapless individuals?
We know that barangay policemen are not salaried employees of the smallest unit of government. They are merely given a monthly allowance that cannot even allow them to enjoy some amenities in life.
Definitely that is far from being a reason to abuse whatever notion of authority that “tanods” think they have. That lack of remuneration should not make them abusers of the people they are supposed to protect from criminal elements.
Of course we are aware that in Davao City, some of the Executive Orders (EOs) by Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio have mandated them to apprehend violators of health protocols in the midst of the CoViD 19 pandemic including the 10-hour curfew and 24-hour liquor ban.
This notwithstanding, the “tanods” accused of raping the teenager still opted to forget their responsibilities as front line security providers. Instead they became the perpetrators of a heinous crime as alleged by the teenager victim. What a twist in expectation!
Is it not that there are criteria in the recruitment of barangay policemen that must be followed? Is it not that the adherence to the criteria is to ensure that those who get into the service really have the intention to protect barangay residents? Have the criteria been set aside and the rule of the “favored ones” by the barangay officials been substituted in its place?
The incident though, may have already been appropriately acted upon by the police authorities. But it is not only heaping shame on the victim and her family, it may also have infused extremely traumatic experience to the young girl. Worst, it has put in question the integrity of the recruitment system for barangay policemen. And if the incident is not acted accordingly by the policemen allowing the suspects to escape responsibility, then there will always be the likelihood that some other similarly criminal- minded “tanods” will do the same act. And woe to the next victim of the unspeakable crime.
It is our take therefore that the rightful government agency or agencies tasked to supervise recruitment of village policemen should revisit the existing criteria of taking into the service those who offer to join the village cops.
Of course it is common knowledge that being a barangay “tanod” is one thankless job. But this should not be the basis of recklessness in allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry in the barangay to join the village protection force. They still need to be screened thoroughly and only those who meet the criteria and commit to sacrifice their time and effort even if the compensation – or call it a reward or whatever – may not be commensurate.
Good thing that Dean Ortiz, a former colleague at Mindanao Times and now spokesman of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Office XI, has come up with a clarification on what Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged to be a “double-budgeted” Davao City Coastal Road project. Lacson’s allegation was not clearly refuted by the DPWH at its national level. Thus, without Ortiz’s clarification, the supposed “double –budgeting” claim may be taken as gospel truth.
Personally, we believe that the issue was not properly explained by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Or perhaps, the copy coming from the House of Representatives that was transmitted to the Senate does not carry with it the explanation regarding the so-called Funds for Later Release (FLR) as what our friend Dean has ably clarified.
Had not Dean made the clarification many Davaoenos would most likely believe that money in millions of pesos are going to the pockets of politicians and other interest groups that have hands in the realization of the multi-billion peso Davao City Coastal Road project.
But knowing DPWH as one among the many government agencies where corruption thrives, we would not say with definitive abandon that there is no corruption in that mega infrastructure project. Not even the waves from the Davao Gulf that strike the coastal road could wash such suspicion in the people’s minds.

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