MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 July) – Members of the local business community warned they may close shop for a day or two and stage a rally if Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata fails to address unabated criminality in the city.
“We are law-abiding citizens but we are dismayed. We are in the process of showing our protest,” Raul Alkuino, whose family owns several businesses, said.
In a peace and order forum on July 27 initiated by the Valencia City Chamber of Commerce, business owners aired their misgivings on what they perceived to be the inability of the local government to deal with the surge in crimes especially theft and robbery.
Chamber president Dr. Efren D.C. Villahermosa Jr. said the crime rate has become “very alarming.”
Supt. Narciso Domingo, who assumed as city police chief on July 18, told the participants that compared to last year’s figures, the cases of car thefts in the city increased by 16 percent, robbery by 6 percent, theft by 47 percent, and murder incidents by 32 percent.
Domingo’s predecessor, Supt. Adonis Mutia, was sacked amid complaints of unabated criminality.
After Mutia, it was Catarata’s turn to face criticisms. The mayor, who was accused of lacking in political will and being slow in acting [on the peace and order situation] was a no-show in the forum.
“He (Catarata) should give immediate solution to the alarming robbery and related cases affecting not only the businessmen but the other sectors as well,” the group said in their first suggestion for Catarata, who they also asked to “stay always in Valencia specially that the non-index crime rate recently has significantly increased”.
But Catarata denied the allegations in a text message for his reaction on the group’s suggestions.
“Peace and order is always a priority that’s why there is a sustained campaign against any threat to peace and order,” he said.
“The police are trained professionals. Let’s trust them and work with them. There’s a time for everything under the heaven,” he added.
“The situation is very urgent. We do not only waste money, we are also wasting people’s lives,” Alkuino told MindaNews via telephone Thursday.
He alleged that the mayor was slow in disbursing funds for peace and order purposes.
“We just need his executive power to expedite the release of these funds. We are in a state of emergency,” he said, adding the mayor should increase the city’s intelligence fund.
Vice Mayor Azucena Huervas said he could not speak on behalf of the executive, but told the forum that the city council was doing it part to support the police.
But she noted that in the first half of 2011 the city encountered a problem with regard to the release of funds due to the memorandum circular from the DILG prohibiting the use of the 20-percent development fund, the source of their peace and order funds, for non-infra projects.
City Councilor Rogelio Neil Roque, who chairs the committee on peace and order, said the daily allocation of 190 liters of fuel from the city government was not enough.
He encouraged the business owners to install close circuit television.
The chamber came out with a report on the forum, a copy of which was emailed to this reporter Thursday afternoon.
In the report, the group asked Cataract and the City Peace and Order Council to review the City Public Safety and Security Plan and the police to coordinate with the different communication groups like Karancho and Eagle’s Communication.
The group also asked the police to put up checkpoints in exit and entry points and present their logistical needs to the city council.
Domingo agreed to target “zero crime” during his term and to coordinate closely with the security agencies in the city. He also vowed to target a 5-minute police response to crime alarms.
The business owners too vowed to do their share. They agreed to raise funds for the acquisition of two brand new motorcycles for the local police. During the forum they handed five units of hand held radio for the police.
According to Domingo, Valencia currently has a police to population ratio of 1:2,678. He said the ideal ratio is 1:700. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)