By Manny Piñol
Davao City is my second home.
While I was born and raised in North Cotabato, this is the city where I first went to college as a scholar and working student, where I first worked as a trainee-newswriter under a newsman named Tony Ajero and later as a cub reporter under a young editor named Jess Dureza and this is where my children study and work now.
I love the slow and easy daily life and I know Davao City like the palm of my hand.
Davao City is safe. The mindset of people is a lot different than in other areas around the country.
A few months ago, my niece, Amena Dawn, dropped her IPhone in a trisikad, that’s actually a cab with a bicycle and a driver pedalling it. She did not notice she lost her phone until the trisikad driver, who was pedalling profusely, called her out and returned her expensive phone.
Rewards? None. Just a sincere thank you and the poor trisikad driver went back to his work.
Several accounts have been made about how visiting tourists to Davao City were able to recover valuables they left behind in taxi cabs, of how they could walk freely in the city streets in the middle of the night without getting molested or mugged, of how they could just leave behind their phones and valuables on top of the table in restaurants to go to the toilet and come back to see these untouched.
Davao City, with almost 2 million people, has its shares of crime. No place could proclaim that it is crime free.
There will always be a criminal mind among us. Even when we were in the grade school, there was always somebody who stole our pencil and ballpen, and even our “baon.”
The difference between Davao City and the other areas around the country is how the leaders and authorities handle and address criminal activities.
About four months ago, a taxi driver was robbed at gunpoint by two men, who later shot him dead.
Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte reacted right away. He visited the wake and assured the family that justice would be served by morning of the following day. Before dawn, one of the killers was dead and the other had disappeared.
It was quick but there are criminal activities which take some time before they are solved.
Five months ago, jeepney passengers travelling the Matina to Downtown route complained to the police that their bags were snatched by a lone thief who would jump off the jeepney and run towards the fairways of the Davao City Golf Club in Matina.
The bags were recovered by the policemen near Hole No. 7 of the golf course. I know because I was there when they recovered a bag.
This string of snatching incidents went on for about two weeks. In all, 27 bags were stolen and dumped near Hole No. 7. But this is a story which show people how the authorities of Davao City handle even petty crimes victimizing ordinary people.
When the snatching incidents occurred, I saw plainclothes policemen in the fairway posing as caddies. Residents of the subdivision surroundig the golf course also joined the watch.
When the policemen did not get the snatcher in their daylight watch, they stayed in the golf course the whole night. In the morning, I would see three or four of them with dark big eyebags after a night-long stake-out.
After bag No. 27 was snatched, the policemen finally got the snatcher and by their account, the suspect had a gun and fought the policemen. He was dead.
The people’s reaction? “Mirisi,” that’s the local lingo for “Good for you.”
Yes, statistics will show that there are crimes committed in Davao City just like in other areas but there is none of the Martilyo Gang or the Riding in Tandem assassins, or carnappers who kill the owners of the vehicles.
Yes, crimes are committed in Davao City but the thing that makes the difference is how authorities respond to the criminal incidents and the success ratio in solving the crime. They call that Crime Solution Efficiency Rating or CSER.
Yes, some people violate the law in Davao City but what makes this city different from the others is the mindset of the people.
Davaoeños are extremely proud of their city. They believe they are the owners and guardians of their city and they are responsible for its upkeep.
Try smoking in public places and the civilians themselves will accost you. Try beating the red light and other motorists will chase you.
In one conversation I had with Mayor Duterte, I told him that his greatest accomplishment in Davao City is not the label of being one of the Safest Citiies in the World to Live in but in transforming the people of the city from a non-caring and indifferent residents to responsible and involved stakeholders and co-owners of their community.
Davao City has its own shares of crimes like quarrels between husband and wife, stabbings here and there and others but it has none of the Rugby boys loitering in the streets, none of the Riding in Tandems, none of the Akyat Bahay Gangs and none of the carnappers who kill their victims.
In instances where petty crimes happen, civilians and policemen are there to help.
Also, in Davao City, even the daughter of the Mayor, who herself is a former Mayor, and an incumbent Congressman are arrested and fined for overspeeding.
That is what makes Davao City safer than the other cities.
Mar Roxas knows this. In fact, just a few months ago when he was courting Duterte to agree to be his Vice Presidential running mate, he was singing praises and hallelujah to the peaceful paradise that is Davao City.
But Mar’s view of things could violently swing from one end to the other, just like his mood and his temper.
In times when he believes you could be useful in achieving his agenda, you are the sweetest person on earth but that would change when your usefulness is over.
Yesterday, Davao City was the epitome of Mar Roxas’ peaceful and orderly community.
Today, as Duterte stands as the major obstacle to his dream of becoming President, Roxas says that Davao’s claim to being one of the safest cities in the world is nothing but a myth.
Yesterday, a friend. Today an enemy.
Yesterday, a fact. Today, a myth.
Classic Mar Roxas who is at a loss on whether to present himself as a Wharton University-educated economist or a trisikad driver, a kargador of a sack of onions, or a traffic aide.