Criminality in PH: Fact or fiction? | Inquirer Opinion

Criminality in PH: Fact or fiction?

/ 05:03 AM February 26, 2023

Fiction: A commercial pilot was forced to land his plane in Jolo, Sulu, and its survivors were held hostage by extremists.

The fiction contained in the American film “Plane” described the area as run by separatists and militia. But, following complaints from at least three senators that it was “unacceptable” for putting the country in a bad light, it has been pulled out from local theaters by its distributor.

“This should not be allowed. … The reputation of our Motherland is at stake,” Sen. Robinhood Padilla said, adding that it is acceptable to discuss issues among Filipinos, but criticisms from foreigners should not be tolerated. The chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board also said that while “the film is fictional,” the country should not be portrayed in a negative and inaccurate light. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri even expressed concern that the film could jeopardize the government’s tourism promotions because it paints “a wrong picture of the Philippines.” As much as we want the Philippines to always be portrayed in a positive light — because who wants to identify with a country that gets attention for the wrong reasons? — one look at the news would easily debunk Zubiri’s claim that a work of fiction does not reflect similar situations in reality.

Fact: A tourist from New Zealand was shot dead in Makati City last week after resisting a brazen street robbery by motorcycle-riding men.


Fact: Unidentified assailants strafed the vehicle of a mayor from Mindanao while he was traveling along Roxas Boulevard in the city of Manila last week, leaving him with a gunshot wound on his hip and left arm.

Fact: Two barangay officials were recently killed in separate incidents: One was shot dead by unidentified persons in front of his family in Negros Occidental last Wednesday; another was shot dead in Mindanao on the eve of his wedding day last month.

Fact: Rebels killed two soldiers who were part of search-and-rescue operations for the passengers of a missing Cessna plane that crashed near Mount Mayon in Albay.

These are just some of the crime stories in the local news recently. The Kiwi tourist’s death and the shooting of soldiers in Albay have been covered by foreign media, particularly in New Zealand and Australia, because their nationals were involved in these incidents. This is not the first time that crimes committed in the country have been in international news because of foreigners involved. Twenty-two years ago, 20 people were taken hostage in an affluent resort on a private island in Palawan, including four Americans, in what is known as the Dos Palmas kidnappings. The incident, which resulted in the death of five hostages, has left a permanent scar on the country’s reputation and has inspired at least two films — one a Hollywood flick and another made by Filipino director Brillante Mendoza.


If government officials are so worried that “Plane” puts the country in a bad light, they should redirect their indignation and anger toward the many social problems that have given rise to a culture of corruption and violence in the country. Why do men and women resort to robbery? Why are there paid assassins — for as low as P5,000 — for a person’s life? Why are activists being arrested or killed? Why are crimes rampant — whether in the provinces or on the streets of Metro Manila, and even in the halls of government offices? Why is the rule of law so weak that criminals go scot-free, unpunished?

While the Philippines’ ranking in the 2022 World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index has slightly improved from No. 102 to No. 97 with an overall score of 0.47 out of 1 (it was 0.46 in 2021), it was still one of the worst in the region. The country ranked 13th among 15 East Asia and the Pacific countries, only ahead of Myanmar and Cambodia, which have been affected by unrest in recent years.


The WJP index showed a slight improvement in the country’s order and security (from 0.63 to 0.66), which measures how well a society ensures the security of persons and property, and in criminal justice (from 0.31 to 0.32), which looks at how justice is dispensed onto those who have committed a crime. But the scores for upholding civil justice (0.45), or whether a system allows people to achieve fair solutions to harm or wrongdoing committed against them, and for regulatory enforcement (0.48), or the extent to which regulations are fairly and effectively implemented and enforced, were stagnant.

If government officials are so concerned about the country’s image, they have the power to ensure that security, peace, and order exist not only in the gated communities of the elites, but in the teeming neighborhoods of the masses. Banning a work of fiction while the facts on the ground are not consistent with the image that pampered and detached government officials want to project is not the solution. Address the sordid reality first and, perhaps, inspiring works of fiction painting the Philippines positively will finally come to light.

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TAGS: Editorial, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, Robin Padilla, World Justice Project

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