COMMENTARY: I thought Davao is one of Asia's most livable cities. By Ma. Carmen L. Lauzon-Gatmaytan

Five days ago my house was forcibly entered by robbers.  While they carted away some valuables, I still feel great relief and gratitude to God that the members of my family were protected from physical harm.  But the trauma remains; my fear, anger and anxiety, paranoia and hatred for men’s evil ways have so deepened that I need to seek God’s grace to overcome it. 

To me, this case is an attack on myself, and for this I want to seek justice. I feel a great sense of violation of my right to property and privacy, and my sense of security has totally crumbled.  My home is my abode, a place of refuge, the safe haven for my family, our comfort zone, our security blanket so to speak. That evil men forcibly invaded my area of privacy is like a violation committed against my person.  And to me this is more precious and much more valuable than the material things taken away from us.

I need to restore my sense of security but it may take longer. I still wake up in the middle of the night and during the early hours of the morning, fearful that burglars have invaded my home.  It would take a few minutes before I can muster the strength and courage to overcome the fear, and look out our window to check and ensure that there is no one in our yard.  

Since that fateful dawn, images of the criminals and their actions keep running through my mind.  The police theorize that a child was used to enter through the kitchen window, because of the very small opening they forcibly created. I can imagine how a man in black, wearing a bonnet, breaking open the kitchen window screen, pulling away the iron bar on the window and taking out 3 glass jalousie blades. Stepping up using a pail turned upside down, the child made a foot print on the outside wall, creeping in and opening the kitchen door for the man to enter our house. With no sound at all, the man had to immediately ensure that my nephew, who was staying with us at that time, will not wake up as they execute the robbery.

The police say their modus operandi includes using a spray to induce or deepen sleep.  I can just imagine how they took their time picking among our things, and then sorting out those they wanted to bring with them.  They probably entered and exited our yard through the vacant house behind our home.  My theory is that they have long studied that vacant house, and in the process discovered the possibility of targeting our house. 

We used to have a noisy dog that may have initially discouraged them, but after we disposed of the dog 2 weeks ago, they decided to rob our house.  On the night they chose, my husband and nephew finished with computer work and TV-watching earlier than usual.  It was the perfect time for them to accomplish their devilish intentions.  I have no one to blame except the evil ways of men.  I am grateful that they spared the master’s bedroom, where more valuables were to be found, where my son was sound asleep with me and my husband.  But I am still anxious, and I have this strong feeling that they will return, with greater boldness.  For they have discovered other valuables they were unable to take with them, including my husband’s laptop and our car.  Their greediness has no limits so I’m sure in due time they will be back.  My husband is looking forward to that occasion, so they will then know what justice means.

As I always seek ways forward, so I ask myself how I will move on from here.  We have started to reinforce the safety of our home, the car, the yard, the windows and doors.  We are considering installing burglar alarms and wiring our fence with electricity.  More than these, I want to see neighborhood association vigilance.  Though we are grateful for the concern of our neighbors as they expressed solidarity, and gave tips on how to protect our home based on their own experiences, I feel that the true sense of the “bayanihan” spirit still needs to be explored. 

I was telling my husband I need to do everything to restore my sense of security, both physically and psychologically.  I need to get stronger and be able to overcome my fears sooner than later. I used to think of myself as somebody brave, even when I was still a young girl. I remember how my younger siblings and playmates ran to me fo
r defense and protection. I was always ready to help and ever willing to defend the aggrieved. I know I am a brave woman and I have proven this to myself with the major decisions I made in my life, through the adventures and endeavors I have undertaken throughout my adult years.  But this horrible experience shattered all these.  I thought nothing and no one can scare me, as I do not fear even the threat of death.  I am even willing to die to defend what is right and what is just.  But this single incident frightened me so much.  Not only am I scared for my family and my household, I’m also scared for all my relatives and friends and the other good people in this city who may also fall victim to this kind of crime, or other more heinous crimes.  

Yet I am determined to overcome this fear.  And one significant resolution I made as I welcome the new year is to transform this fear through seeking justice. I also want to do my share in creating a safe environment for my children, nieces, nephews and other children of this city.  I dream for my children a peaceful, sharing and caring society.  A loving community free from men’s greed and evil intentions.  I know that God is with me to be able to do this.  He has seen how pained I was by this experience, and because He is a loving God, He is also in pain and is hurt by what I am going through.  But with God’s grace, I know I will be strong once again.    

But questions still linger.  My case is not an isolated case.  In our subdivision alone, I learned that nearly every home has fallen victim to one form of crime or another.  Is this accepted by the residents as a normal and natural part of living in this city (or elsewhere in the country)?  Why, despite the authorities’ knowledge of the modus operandi of these criminals, has law enforcement been so ineffective?  If sleep-inducing sprays are used, where do the criminals get them?  Cannot their sale or use be regulated?   Why aren’t outlets of stolen goods, like second-hand stores and pawnshops enjoined to cooperate with authorities in curbing crime?  Can the general citizenry be mobilized for greater vigilance to ensure that crimes are minimized in the city?  I wish to pursue these questions and find the answers soonest.

I thought Davao is one of Asia’s most livable cities… (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Ma. Carmen L. Lauzon-Gatmaytan is Program Coordinator of the Initiatives for International Dialogue. She wrote this piece five days after the robbery).