The cold-blooded stabbing murder of a 16-year old teener by a youth gang member inside a resto-bar in the city baywalk last week has prompted calls for stricter implementation of security measures around the public park, including regulations prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors.
The management of the Puerto Princesa Baywalk, business establishments, some barangay officials, Philippine National Police (PNP), and line city government offices has been receiving flak for the incident and the current situation at the Baywalk.
Myka Magbanua, chairman of the Committee on Women, Children, and Family Welfare of the City Council, said Monday that the “quite alarming” murder of Kurt Tan on January 3 was partly because minors were allowed to purchase alcoholic drinks.
She said the baywalk is being mismanaged by certain individuals who have the responsibility to keep it safe as a public place.
“Baywalk management, the barangay captains of Bagong Pagasa and San Isidro, the owner of the establishments involved, bakit sila nagpapapasok ng menor de edad? We should call also the representative of the Business Process Licensing Office (BPLO). We should know kasi mandato nila ito for the very long time. Ang tanong nagco-conduct ba ng ocular inspection? And lastly, ang ating Philippine National Police (PNP) dahil alam natin may PNP mismo at alam natin ang PNP katuwang ng ating BPLO sa pagconduct ng inspection sa lahat ng business establishment and anti-crime because I believe isa sila sa unang nag-responde sa nangyari,” Magbanua said.
Reiterating the executive order (EO) and ordinances that selling of liquors and beverages containing alcoholic content to minors are strictly prohibited, Magbanua cited Section 6 of Presidential Decree No. 6019 issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, that selling and offering to minors of liquors and beverages containing an alcoholic content is prohibited and shall be punishable by imprisonment ranging from six months and 1 day up to four years, and a fine ranging from P600 to P4,000.
Leny Nicolas, village chief of Pagasa, in a separate interview, deflected the blame towards the stall owners, pointing out that they “should know that selling alcohol to minors is prohibited”.
“Siguro unang-una dapat na may responsibilidad ay si stall owners mismo. Siyempre kami sa barangay ang aming Peace and Order [workers] ay nagpapatupad ng curfew. Binabantayan natin na umiikot dito sa jurisdiction ng barangay. Kung sino dapat ang manager, hindi na ‘yan kayang bantayan ng barangay. Dapat sa stall owner mismo kasi alam naman nila mismong bawal,” Nicolas said.
Magbanua jabbed on the law enforcement groups’ latency on their complacency to check the related incidents which have ultimately culminated on the murder slay.
“Bakit napagbigyan o napayagang mangyari ang ganitong klaseng incident. Kung dati ang problema lang natin ay kaguluhan o may ilang nasasaktan pero ngayon may binawian na na buhay na kabataan so it is quite alarming,” Magbanua added.
Lack of law enforcement
Under Section 56 of City Ordinance No. 1064, or the Children’s Code of Puerto Princesa, Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO), City PNP, and City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) are mandated to “regularly” inspect business establishments selling liquors, particularly presenting valid ID or birth certification upon entering the said establishment.
The same ordinance provides that posting of notices and information on child protection at entrances or front desk, selling of alcholic beverages and tobacco products for minors and failure to post signages shall be penalized P3,000 for first offense, P4,000 for second offense, and P5,000 for third offense without prejudice to cancellation of permits.
Magbanua questioned the baywalk management, business establishments registered in the city for violating ordinances, citing the lack of inspection and “negligence” led to to the cold blooded stabbing of a teenager.
“Ang malaking tanong ko, bakit nangyari ito? Mayroon naman tayong baywalk management doon. Mayroon tayong naka-antabay o mini-police station doon. I believe mayroon ding tanod outpost na malapit and ang liit po ng area we have two barangay halls na nandoon sa area, yet mayroon tayong menor de edad na dapat nasa bahay na dahil ito ay nangyari beyond curfew hours na at mayroon tayong menor de edad na tinanggap sa mga bars o painuman para uminom. Napakalaki itong pagkukulang o negligence on our part and nangyari ang incidente na to sa jurisdiction mismo ng city government,” Magbanua added.
Nicolas stressed that the responsibility falls squarely on the lap of the business establishments in the area, pointing out that the barangay tanods have
“Hindi na namin responsibilidad siguro ‘yon. ‘Yong mga tanod umiikot yan pero hindi na nila kayang isa isahin sino jan ang mga menor de edad. Alam naman ng stall owners na bawal, kaya dapat sila mismo hindi na nagbebenta,” Nicolas said.
Citing a Palawan News story, Magbanua said that local officials must focus on the proper implementation of laws if the city was to revive its local economy.
“As I scroll sa newsfeed ko sa Facebook I can see a separate editorial article ang Palawan News saying and branding the city baywalk as a dangerous place in Puerto Princesa and city baywalk is one of our economic enterprise. It should be a safe place for Puerto Princesans the same with the Coliseum, and the same with People’s Amphitheater in the Mendoza park. Lahat ‘yon dapat is safe spaces for our children, safe spaces para sa lahat ng Puerto Princesa. Yet, nangyari itong ganitong pangyayari,” Magbanua said.
The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) federation, which Magbanua is also actively heading, has lined up programs, projects, and activities intended for “underprivileged youth” in 66 barangays.
“Gusto nating linawin na tayo rin sa sangguniang ito sa lungsod ang nag-approve ng mga plans and annual budget ng ating mga SK in all 66 barangays and we have copies of different programs, projects, and activities that is primarily under privileged youth ng lahat ng barangay sa Puerto princesa. Tayo rin ang mas nakaaalam na ang mga SK natin can only do as much because of limited resources but they don’t have police power para pulisin ang mga ganitong pangyayari,” Magbanua added.
Reiterating that the problem is not just a mere problem but a perennial problem for a very long time, Magbanua said that domestic problems also have a key role in child development.
“Ito ay resulta na lang ng mas malaking problem na dapat nating nireresolba. Majority ng kabataan natin dito nakakasama natin sa iba’t-ibang activities ay may problema sa pamilya. I can really assure na 90 percent of them ay may problema sa loob ng bahay. I can really assure na majority of them ay na-iimpluwensyahan ng kanilang environment o surroundings,” Magbanua said.
Nicolas admitted that the local officials have heard of the budding “gang war” by two separate teenage groups, but insisted that policing each and every minor-goers at the Baywalk would be a handful task.
“Naririnig na natin ‘yong dalawang grupo na ‘yon. Hindi naman sa barangay lang namin ‘yon kasi parang malaking grupo naman talaga ‘yon na namamasyal lang sa Baybay,” Nicolas said.
With concrete strategic plans to curb the issues brought, Magbanua encouraged the local officials to strengthen its efforts in youth rearing and child development programs.
“I think it is high time to resolve this issue, it is high time to end violence among children, it is high time to rebrand our economic enterprise and safe spaces para sa ating mga taga-Puerto Princesa into a safer place. Hindi lang safe from COVID-19 but safe for all violence dito sa lungsod ng Puerto Princesa,” Magbanua added. (with a report from Jeshyl Guiroy and Arphil Ballarta)