The Filipino commuter is terrified

Anne De Jesus Portugal
The Filipino commuter is terrified
We hear familiar stories of violence and harassment but there's no talk of concrete solutions. Is safety not a right in this country?

In a country where no one seems to fear the law, who wouldn’t be afraid to commute? Cases of kidnapping, rape and hold up have been reported, while many nonchalantly commute around the metro.

This year, street crimes in the Philippines reached up to 21,496 – still a significant number despite its drop from 23,963 last year. Needless to say, our streets aren’t safe.

Most of the Filipino working class use public transportation; and just taking that morning commute alone can be such a grueling exercise. The failing MRT system, the accident-prone buses, the (chance of losing consciousness in) taxis and the sardine-packed jeepneys are not good options. But since there is nothing better or no other choice, we still ride, praying that today will not be the day we fall victim to crimes plaguing our society.

How many of you have already been robbed in the streets?

A couple of months back, a young man dressed in decent clothes rode a jeep in Makati. A few minutes later, the lady seated next to him was already bawling, handing over her whole purse to him. The young man spoke in a stern voice addressing all passengers, “Pasensya na po, manghihingi lang ng donasyon,” while his knife was pointed at the lady.

COMMUTERS' WOES. File photo dated May 12, 2008 show Filipinos waiting for public transport vehicles along a main highway in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines. Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

We’ve witnessed or heard about these crimes, but we are either too shocked or too afraid to try to put a stop to them. And while people are starting to fear the streets, the criminals are boldly coming out to claim them as their own.

Let us zero in on the Alabang-Zapote stretch; those who are familiar with this road know that it is synonymous to slow (if not at all moving) traffic. And a jeepney stuck in traffic can be a risky place to be in.

A recent incident happened in Alabang where a barefoot girl seemingly aged only 8, hopped onto a jeep and distributed envelopes to passengers, forcing money out of them. When one passenger refused to give her money, the girl yelled at her, taunted her and stepped on her foot before hopping out of the vehicle. Such violent behavior from a girl her size, and yet no one fought back. But then again, how can one defend himself/herself from a minor, who is conveniently protected by the law?

We hear familiar stories of violence and harassment but there’s no talk of concrete solutions. Is safety not a right in this country? Because really, people who aren’t safe, are people who aren’t free. –

 Anne De Jesus Portugal traded journalism, despite her love for writing, to become a full-time mom. She now lives in California, visits here, and continues to write about love and relationships in her blog. 

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