“The seed of evilness blooms in the fields of negligence.” — Mladen Đorđević

I felt sympathetic to an 8-year-old girl who fell in an open manhole of a canal close to that unlighted bronze statue of Princess Eulalia at the City Baywalk Park, a designated place for visiting tourists.

Last Wednesday night, I got a text message from a certain Joyce Piñero Manouguian, the grandmother of the young Micaela Joyce, seeking to vent her sentiments on the negligence that had caused an accident to her innocent grandchild.

I met with Joyce in the morning at a coffee shop near my place in San Pedro. She had a copy of the police investigation report with her. I asked her how the accident happened. She narrated that on the night of February 9 at around 9:30 in the evening, her family had dinner in a restaurant at the Baywalk. While walking on an unlit and unpaved portion of the Baywalk, Micaela pointed to the statue of Princess Eulalia, excitedly saying: “Grandma, my teacher in our school told us about that statue of the Princess.”

Micaela Joyce, a grade 2 pupil at the San Manuel elementary school in Puerto Princesa City, ran towards the gate of the statue, but she suddenly disappeared from view of her relatives. She had fallen into an open manhole.

They shouted, asking for help from bystanders to get Micaela out of the deep canal. They managed, but the kid sustained bruises and abrasions on her body and had to be given first aid assistance by the responding police.

Joyce had informed Jinno Franco, the overall supervisor at Baywalk Park, but she got nothing. What Franco could only do was report the incident to city hall and have the manhole covered. Franco only scratched his head.

Joyce said she was referred to a certain Joseph Carpio, an executive assistant to city mayor Lucilo Bayron and public market administrator. She met Carpio at the Irawan Public Market Office. She told me she got nothing.

On February 20, she went to the office of the city mayor to lodge a written complaint, but as of this writing, she had not received anything or a call from the office.

On that Thursday afternoon, I checked that particular manhole in the baywalk where the accident happened. I noticed that it was newly cemented already.

I interviewed Micaela Joyce that Friday to look at her condition and whether she had already recovered from the traumatic experience. Adding to her grief was the death of her mother a year earlier due to colon cancer. She said she was having nightmares after the incident.

I asked some people around the Baywalk area if they knew of any other incidents involving that open manhole. They said that there had been two prior incidents in the past few months.

No one apparently filed a complaint because they said nothing would happen to the complaints.

Joyce asked if that was really the situation in the city. Joyce is a Palaweña who has been an Australian national for 30 years now and a resident of Barangay San Pedro, Puerto Princesa City together with her family.

The government’s negligence reminds me of the decided case of the Supreme Court on the City of Manila versus Genaro Teotico and Court of Appeals GR No. L-23052 penned by Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion.

In the decision, the facts narrated that Teotico was a practicing certified public accountant (CPA) who “fell inside an uncovered and unlighted catch basin or manhole on P. Burgos Avenue. Due to the fall, his head hit the rim of the manhole, breaking his eyeglasses and causing broken pieces thereof to pierce his left eyelid. As blood flowed therefrom, impairing his vision, several people came to his assistance and pulled him out of the manhole. One of them brought Teotico to the Philippine General Hospital, where his injuries were treated, after which he was taken home.”

Here, the High Court penalized the City of Manila based on the facts that the area where the incident happened was under the control or supervision of the City of Manila and was guilty of negligence in connection with the maintenance of said P. Burgos Avenue.

If the Baywalk Park officers of the City of Puerto Princesa would continue their habit of being negligent in maintaining the perimeter, then I would not wonder if one day a similar penalty for damages could be slapped against the city government by the High Court.

In another tourist area in the city, Balayong People’s Park, an incident of sexual abuse against two minors occurred that was allegedly committed by two park security personnel of the city government on April 19 at night.

Initial police investigation reports revealed the suspects as Ryan Dayap Santiago, 33, a single watchman and resident of P. Burgos St., Brgy. Masipag, and Augustine Franco Batul, 40, a watchman and resident of Abanico Brgy. San Pedro, both of the Puerto Princesa City Civil Security Group assigned in Balayong Park.

Police said the minor victims were just sitting on a bench and eating street food when the suspects approached them. Santiago allegedly dragged the minor female to a grassy area of Balayong Park, where he abused her.

Batul reportedly dragged his male victim, Hanz Gabuco Claridad, into a separate area and sexually abused him.

That was quite a sadistic act by the security officers of Balayong Park. It seems there is a disconnected, if not misplaced, understanding of what a park is meant to be.

I went to Balayong Park in Barangay Sta. Monica to see where the exact incident occurred. One would notice that Balayong Park, like the Baywalk, was not properly lit. The grass had not been cut such that when one lay down, he could not be seen in the open.

Both parks, Baywalk and Balayong, were small in area as compared to other parks in other cities.

Parks are intended for people who want space and to spend free time where no one would harm them, especially our young, pristine adolescents. No parent in their right mind would allow their innocent children to roam around a park that is unsafe.

Puerto Princesa is aiming to be the country’s primary tourist destination, but neglectful incidents such as this one will set this target back. I am hoping this sudden incident will not occur again in the future.