POSTSCRIPT / November 22, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Rash of killings doesn't disturb the President?

MISPLACED MALLS: We plain folk have noticed it a long time ago, but until now the authorities have not. I am referring to the adverse impact of the proliferation of malls and other giant shopping centers in crowded areas along thoroughfares.

The effect of misplaced giant malls is predictable: Traffic congestion, loss of valuable man-hours, dwindling water supply, threat to public health, and a rise in crimes against property in the neighborhood.

As a matter of policy, the government should not allow the building and operation of these malls beside busy and/or narrow streets or in crowded neighborhoods or where utility services are inadequate.

If anybody wants to put up a mall the size of, say, an SM shopping center, he should be told to go to an interior area that is at least one kilometer from an existing thoroughfare and that has a night population of not exceeding a pre-determined size.

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GROWTH CENTERS: If a mall is any good, shoppers will flock to it anyway even if it is out of the way in the beginning. It need not be located beside a highway or a main road, as is now the practice, to draw shoppers.

Building attractive shopping centers, something like an SM, away from a thoroughfare and a busy neighborhood will force the development of more interior areas. A new mall will cause the opening of new growth centers.

The entities concerned, including the government and the mall operators, will be forced to build the infrastructure needed — including a new road network, water and utility connections, and such urban amenities.

The neighborhood, although far from a highway or thoroughfare, will benefit from the resulting development.

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MOLINO WOES: This point about giant malls was brought up by a harassed Cavite resident working in Manila. He is one of countless commuters caught in the development whirl of an SM mall built in their neighborhood in Molino.

Reader I. Navarro said in his text message: “Since SM-Molino opened, commuters now have to travel more than four hours to get home, because of the traffic the mall has generated on Molino’s narrow streets. Even water supply has been adversely affected. Getting a phone connection has become harder, because the mall gets priority.”

“It is high time government adopted a policy directing the development and construction of shopping malls and complexes only in areas without existing roads and utilities. This will not only spur the development of a modern environ and facilities, but will also free urban dwellers from monstrous traffic and related problems spawned by misplaced malls.”

In many forums where the operation of malls is discussed, the same complaints are heard. But it seems our urban planners and managers, and the officials under whom they work, do not see this point about location.

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SUCKED DRY: In one area in Quezon City where a sprawling shopping complex was built (and continues to expand), residents had experienced — as expected — a sudden drop in the water supply in the neighborhood.

To satisfy a requirement that a mall must have feasible plans for sourcing water without taking water away from the host neighborhood, the mall owners went through the motions of drilling and showing they were tapping underground wells.

But after city hall and other authorities granted them the necessary permits, the mall owners simply plugged the wells that they had dug up for show. And, as they probably intended all along, they then connected their giant pumps to the Nawasa water lines in the neighborhood.

Water supply of the old residents dropped. Siempre.

What is the rule on the tapping of water lines and other utilities when a big-volume user like a mall inserts itself into a neighborhood? And if there is such a rule, who checks if it is being obeyed?

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RASH OF KILLNGS: Has President Gloria Arroyo arrived from the exhilarating summit in Busan?

If the Chief Executive is back at her desk, she might want to check disturbing reports of a growing number of militants and journalists being executed by gunman operating with impunity.

After earlier news of members of radical groups being routinely murdered came another report of a militant couple abducted last Oct. 26 in Quezon town being found dead last Sunday in barangay Pinili in San Jose City.

The bodies of Danilo Supena, 32, and his wife Maribel, 27, were found stuffed in sacks. Their identities were confirmed by Police Chief Antonio Adaoag.

In Pampanga, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan member Rommel Arcilla (also known as Carlo) was killed by four gunmen at the Guagua-Floridablanca intersection of the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road. His wife and their seven-year-old son witnessed the killing.

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MOTORIZED KILLERS: In Angeles City, Errol Sending, an organizer of the urban poor group Kadamay, was shot dead last Saturday while walking on Burgos Street in barangay Lourdes Sur. One of two men, riding a motorcycle, shot him in the chest and stomach.

Sending is reportedly a member of the party-list group Bayan Muna in Pampanga. His group said he was the 21st victim of executions by suspected military hit men in Central Luzon since September.

The most recent attacks on activists in the region happened on Oct. 25 and 26. Victims were Hacienda Luisita labor leader Ricardo Ramos, Bayan Pampanga leader Francisco Rivera and his two companions, and Bulacan transport leader Federico de Leon.

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NEWSMEN SLAIN: In Cabuyao, Laguna, unidentified men shot dead a tabloid reporter while he was waiting for a ride. The victim was identified as Robert Ramos, reporter of the Laguna-based Katapat tabloid. He was the ninth journalist killed this year.

His murder came 60 hours after the slaying of radio station dzRS announcer Ricardo “Ding” Uy, a Bayan Muna provincial coordinator for Sorsogon and head of the Media Reporters Association of the province. He was killed outside his home in Sorsogon City.

As in similar killings, two motorcycle-riding men stopped in front of Ramos and then one of them shot him twice in the head, killing him on the spot. The duo then sped away.

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DO SOMETHING!: I am not speculating on who may have planned and executed the killings. This is only to call attention to the rash of violence that gives the impression that there is an operation for the physical elimination of problem personalities.

The military is expected to say it has nothing to do with the killings. What I think should happen is for the police (not the military, since these slayings are police cases) to solve some if not all of the murders.

The police cannot stop a determined killer who has the capacity and the opportunity to commit the crime. But as we keep saying, the test of the police is not in preventing such crimes, but in solving them.

And then, of course, the President cannot just keep quiet while Filipinos are killing one another. However she feels about these killings, she should say something. And do something.

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BLOATED EGOS: A reader signing as R. U. Cirius, told me in a text message to be more specific in my complaint that some government officials imagine themselves to be above the rest of us and claim privileged status on the road.

Since you asked, Cirius, let me tell you. Some days ago, we motorists patiently crawling through heavy traffic near the Ayala tunnel in Makati were bullied to the side by three motorcycle cops with flashers and sirens.

They were escorting a bureaucratic god/goddess on a heavily tinted Nissan Patrol bearing license plate number XPA 822, with two backup security vehicles with red lights blinking as they trailed close behind like mad dogs.

There is no indication that the person given the VIP treatment, at taxpayer’s expense, is a government official. But if he/she is not, how explain the motorcycle escorts and security?

Until now, I cannot understand why somebody whose driver’s license (assuming he has one) is similar to my license should have priority on the road over me. And why all those expensive and irritating trappings of power?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 22, 2005)

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