Spotlight on Women Patrols in Pateros
PRESIDENT RODRIGO Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) had stuck it out for over a year with a brutal and iron-fisted approach in the fight against drugs, including the killing of thousands of suspects. Meanwhile, a group of women are leading the way in their community to prove that there is more than one way to combat the narcotics problem.
CMFR cheers the Philippine Daily Inquirer for putting a spotlight on this civic effort “Mom’s, grandmas, aunts ‘lose sleep’ for safer Pateros, ” a heartwarming story of women supporting the drug war but also valuing human life and adhering to rule of law.
In Sitio Pagkakaisa in Brgy. Sta. Ana, Pateros, a volunteer group of women began the nightly rounds of their area in January this year. Pateros Mayor Ike Ponce III called for vigilance amidst the rampant killings, which he had openly denounced with banners in the streets with clear message: Extrajudicial killings are “not right process to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs.”
Citizens have found another way. The story written by Dexter Cabalza noted the collective trauma caused by the deaths in their community. Jenny Helo, one volunteer patroller said “So we thought that maybe it would be better if it’s us women who would stay awake at night; at least we’ll feel safer that way. Otherwise, we would be worried about people trying to kill our loved ones as we sleep.”
Clad in white shirts and blue vests and armed with nothing more than flashlights, the women patrol the streets, reminding teenagers who are out that the curfew is in effect, reminding bystanders of the prohibition against shirtless roaming, even calling out groups in drinking sessions along sidewalks.
Two policemen add to the group’s persuasive powers, as the round lasts till four in the early morning.
Familiarity with the place and the people have certainly worked for them. The story quotes a housewife, Merlia Balana, who told the reporter, “We know all the people here, the good or the bad ones. They don’t need to show IDs or birth certificates because we have watched them grow up. We’ve known them since they were toddlers.”
There has been zero death count since the patrols started, according to Senior Insp. Boy Novia, commander of a police precinct in Sta. Ana.
Yet certain challenges remain. They occasionally receive money from the mayor’s office but sometimes, they have dig into their own pockets for snacks and coffee. Still, they are more than willing to persevere. Unmindful of the deprived hours of sleep, the work continues. “Who else can neighbors turn to for help but each other?” Balana said.
Recent stories in media showcased effective approaches in the drug war. (“Conscientious in Cebu, Bloodless in Bogo: Oplan Pokemon, Tight Cooperation Bring Desirable Results”). Media attention to these strategies provides solid evidence that ways other than violence may be the answer.
(See also: “Bontoc Women still Man the Night Watch”)