First of two parts
We’ve raised these pressing, mostly life-and-death issues before, but we must keep bringing them up to make sure our next leader and the voters electing him or her don’t miss them, amid the denial and downplaying by pro-administration media dominating the public arena.
The big issues are: surging crime, rampant smuggling, persistent poverty and hunger, Mindanao conflict, and big-power rivalry in Asia.
What makes these issues doubly worrying is the general lack of concern and awareness about them among press, public and politicians.
Ask people at home or work if crime is at its worst ever. Most may wonder what you’re talking about. Yet as the alarming data show, SURGING CRIME has tripled to more than a million incidents reported in each of the last two years, from 324,083 in 2010, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Yes, we now have three times the crime in the year President Benigno Aquino 3rd took office. To quote the presidentiables briefing published in this column on August 18 (http://www.manilatimes.net/presidentiables-briefing-the-crime-explosion/210493/):
“Crime incidence per 100,000 population also nearly tripled to 1,004 in 2014, from 350 four years before. Index crimes, which include major offenses like murder, rape and robbery, more than doubled to nearly half a million in 2014, from just over 200,000 in 2010. Per 100,000 population, index crimes went from 218 to 493 in the same period.
“Crimes against persons hit 258,444 — triple the 2010 number, while crimes against property jumped 94 percent, from 118,943 to 231,005 four years later. Physical injury, rape and theft more than doubled.”
And the crime wave isn’t over: “PNP-DIDM [Philippine National Police’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management] cited data for January-June this year: 885,445 crimes reported, up from 603,085 in the first semester of 2014. Index crimes surged 37 percent to 352,321. Murders jumped by 45 percent to 7,245 cases, while physical injury rose by half to 182,886 incidents. Thefts hit 105,229, up by nearly 20,000 from a year ago. And watch your car — carnapping nearly doubled to 10,039.”
Any presidentiable worth his or her certificate of candidacy clearly should include crime fighting and prevention as a key part of the governance platform.
Contraband out of control
Next issue: RAMPANT SMUGGLING. Many Filipinos probably know that contraband is a major problem, after Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina got flak recently for wanting to inspect balikbayan boxes shipped by overseas Filipino workers, despite widespread knowledge that the real smugglers are not OFWs.
Still, thanks to silent pro-Aquino papers, few people know that the undeclared or under-declared value of Philippine imports has trebled, from $7.9 billion in 2009 to a record $26.6 billion last year, based on International Monetary Fund trade statistics. The proportion of goods misdeclared or never declared has doubled from 14.7 percent in 2010 to 27.2 percent last year.
And the total amount of smuggling exceeds P4 trillion, with revenue losses topping P760 billion just for uncollected value-added tax, with excise, luxury and other special levies not counted (http://www.manilatimes.net/smuggling-utterly-out-of-control-under-aquino-regime-p4-trillion-in-last-five-years/212920/).
That Everest of graft makes the pork barrel of P10 billion allegedly corrupted by legislators through Janet Lim Napoles, look like an anthill. But even more pernicious than evaded tariffs, however, are the guns, drugs, explosives, and other killer cargo slipping through the ports.
Imagine how many high-powered rifles and high-inducing narcotics can go in a 40-foot cargo container. Well, back in 2011, more than 2,000 boxes got lost in transit between Manila and other ports. And the street prices of firearms and drugs promptly plunged.
Aquino and his chosen Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales never investigated that worst spate of smuggling in the country ever, even though it is so easy to check cargo release documents and pinpoint which negligent or conniving Customs officials kept letting containers leave Manila’s terminals even after dozens, hundreds or thousands had vanished.
So Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Secretary Mar Roxas, Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor Santiago, and other presidential candidates, if elected, what measures would you take to stanch this smuggling running amok and no doubt fuelling lawless elements, drug syndicates, rebel groups, and perhaps — God forbid — terrorists?
Poor and hungry
Next on the priority problem list are the twin scourges of POVERTY AND HUNGER, which have minimally or hardly improved despite years of rapid 6-7 percent economic growth and the much-touted P40-billion-a-year conditional cash transfer stipends.
Back in 2009, when the 2008-09 global recession, escalating food prices in 2008, and the Ondoy and Pepeng megafloods slashed Philippine growth to 0.9 percent, poverty afflicted one in five families. By January-June 2014, after four years of heady growth under Aquino, one-fifth of families are still poor, equivalent to a quarter of the population.
What about self-rated poverty, as surveyed every quarter by Social Weather Stations? Average SRP in 2009 was 49 percent. Fast-forward to 2014: it’s 54 percent. And in January-June this year: 51 percent.
And the “food-poor” families who told SWS they could not afford three meals a day, rose from the 2009 mean of 39 percent to last year’s 41 percent average, though the ratio dropped a bit to just over 36 percent in the first semester of 2015.
As for hunger, the numbers again cannot but dismay. In 1990, the Philippines had a lower global hunger index (20.1) than Indonesia (20.5), Thailand (21.3), and Vietnam (31.4). A decade later, we had the highest GHI of the four: 17.9 against 17.3 in Vietnam, 16.1 in Indonesia, and 10.2 in Thailand.
And last year, Thais and Vietnamese brought their GHIs to single digits (5.0 and 7.5, respectively), while Indonesians was about to also go below 10. And we Filipinos? Still at 13.1.
Tomorrow, we tackle national security issues, which, quite frankly, can unleash terrorism and war on our land.
(The last part will be published tomorrow.)