Punish spitting, says solon; but how?

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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The Philippines' low number of policemen can derail the possible enforcement of bills like a recent one penalizing spitting

MANILA, Philippines – A solon on Thursday, April 12, announced a bill to penalize spitting in public places, but questions on its possible enforcement linger given the low number of policemen in the Philippines, among other things.

Filed by Ave party-list Rep Eulogio Magsaysay, House Bill 5901 seeks “to address the bad habit of spitting in public places, which may cause the spread of dreaded diseases (including) tuberculosis and hepatitis.”

Under the bill, a person caught spitting in public places faces a 6-month jail term and a fine of P500 for 1st offense, P1,000 for 2nd offense, and P2,000 for 3rd offense. The law shall also require a violator to attend a Health Department seminar.

“While anti-spitting laws have been in existence in a number of jurisdictions, like Singapore, India, Malaysia, and China, only Davao City has vigorously implemented a similar law in the country since 2010,” Magsaysay said.

Spitting in public is not only a health-related issue.

Unhygienic practices like this have received criticisms, too, from foreigners visiting the Philippines. In his video “20 Things I Dislike about the Philippines,” for instance, Cebu-based foreigner James Sieczka satirized the Filipino practice of urinating in public. 

Police-to-population ratio

How will authorities catch violators, however?

LAW ENFORCEMENT. How many policemen, for one, can enforce a possible law penalizing spitting? Photo courtesy of sarangani.gov.ph

International standards prescribe an ideal ratio of one police officer for every 500 citizens. The Philippine National Police (PNP) falls short of this, with an average police-to-population ratio of 1:662.

For 2012, the PNP targets to improve the ratio to at least 1:620.

The police-to-population ratio is worse in a number of Philippine localities. In Los Baños, which experienced a spate of student killings recently, only one police officer safeguards every 4,000 residents.

Poor law enforcement, which often involves the judicial system, has often prevented Philippine progress. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com