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A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

In 2013, as Senate President Franklin Drilon poured more than P2 billion into roads and bridges for Iloilo City, he set aside a measly P50 million for the retrofitting of the Ramon Avancena Hall of Justice after it was damaged by the February 6, 2012 earthquake.
Drilon ignored the pleas of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and the general public to demolish the building because it was condemned as structurally weak, and posed a danger to its occupants, and build a new one.
Drilon said there was no money.
But only 3 kilometers away, Drilon was pouring P153 million per kilometer on a road widening project which most Ilonggos felt wasn’t even necessary.
He didn’t find it important enough that lives are at stake.
Anyway, the retrofitting was completed early this year. Is the building now safe?
Judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court personnel and litigants who have to work under its roofs are not convinced.
They are complaining that the same swaying motions of the floor that was observed before the February 6, 2012 earthquake could still be felt. Cracks have started to be noticed in critical parts of the building.
Drilon should pray that Iloilo City won’t be hit by a strong earthquake.

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Conspiracy theory

It’s been a week since a lone perpetrator used a lock-pick to force open my car door and stole my laptop computer and favorite defense weapon, a Glock 26 9mm pistol. I haven’t heard anything from the police, although I was told they had a suspect based on the modus operandi. And as I was sipping a cup of hazelnut brew at Coffeebreak Gaisano, I was approached by Manny Gruenberg to let me know he was also hit in similar fashion at the guarded parking lot of “The Avenue” only two days before it happened to me.

That left me wondering if the police has the capability to solve car break-ins like this, as it would appear the culprit, who obviously wasn’t working alone, has been doing this a number of times. The method used is more refined now; in previous cases, the culprits smashed the car window open to gain access. It was a crude method that increased their risk of being caught. In fact, several suspects were indeed caught, only to go free on bail. A degree of sophistication has been introduced to their modus operandi: pick-locks are now being used.

It looks like the criminals are always a step or two ahead of the police. And as I write this, I heard a TV report about how a suspect just snatched in broad daylight the digital camera of two people who were posing for souvenir photographs in Iloilo City. Worse, it was reported that the complaint filed against the suspects in the East West Bank robbery was dismissed by the City Prosecutors Office on a technicality. The criminals are indeed ahead in the game, and are getting bolder and bolder.

But this boldness doesn’t remove that nasty feeling that I was a target of a well-planned “hit”. Almost everybody — even the security guards at the West Visayas State University where it happened —- tells me I must have been followed, or the culprits knew exactly where I would be, at what time, and how long the car would be left unattended. It makes sense. March 18 was a public holiday, and there wasn’t supposed to be classes at the WVSU. Moreover, the school year had ended. I was just there to take the final exams in a graduate school subject.

As described by witnesses, it didn’t take more than 2 minutes. The culprit casually walked toward my parked vehicle and peered inside through the tinted window glass. He was verifying the object of the planned theft was there; he must have seen me leaving the vehicle without my knapsack bag in which I kept my laptop. Then he took out his tools and picked the door lock mechanism. Seconds later, he opened it and got the laptop bag. But then he saw a smaller bag; my Glock pistol was in it. A bonus.

Now that a week has passed, I am pessimistic about the items being recovered, and the culprit, and the brains behind it, caught. But I am worried that this incident will only embolden the underworld into carrying out more crimes. The police seems helpless in cracking these cases. The reasons are many why this is so: lack of training in investigatve, inadequate logistical support, poor motivation and plain indifference about their job. This is a reason murders in broad daylight can just happen. This is a reason bank robberies take place so routinely.

I can live with the theft of these items. And whoever plotted this will not succeed in silencing my voice on issues affecting the community. But the incident should be an eye-opener for everybody to the reality that nobody is safe anymore. The only way to change that is for the police to shake things up and introduce reforms in its organization and the way it does police work.