Friday, December 12, 2014

One Baguio City Vendor Being Collared By Three POSD Officers: So Who Is In The Wrong?

So this photo of a female vendor in Baguio City being collared by three officers of the Public Order And Safety Division (POSD) is making its rounds online. For those not in the loop, the POSD is a team under the mayor's office the main function of which is to enforce the laws, policies, and regulations of the city with regards to keeping cleanliness and orderliness in the city's streets and sidewalks.

So yes, it's part of their job to keep illegal and ambulant vendors off the city's streets. So back to the photo in question. It was posted on Facebook by Mau Victa, a Baguio-based journalist and photographer.

In the photo, we see three men (POSD officers as per the Facebook post by Victa) and a woman (a vendor according to the same post). We see the three officers accosting the visibly shaken vendor in what looks like a portion of Session Road. In fact, she seems to be on the verge of crying. One of the officers has one of his hands on a blue bag being held by the vendor. He's probably trying to grab it to confiscate it. But then again let's not forget that it's what they do. It's part of the job.

Here's the post on Facebook by Mr. Victa:

Reading through the comments left by people on the post, I gathered that most people are angry of what the POSD officers did. And I can't blame them. The photo shows a helpless woman making her stand against not just one but three men. We all tend to side with underdogs.

However, what we have here is a photo. We don't have photos of what transpired before and after. And again, even if the three men were indeed trying to grab the bag from the woman, that's their job right? They were ordered to keep ambulant vendors off the streets. And if they find them there, they are obligated to confiscate what they are selling. That's what they were doing.

Now, let's talk about the use of "excessive force" since this seems to be the main reason why some people are getting angered by the photo. What is excessive force? I think this is sort of subjective, depending on the type of job a person holds.

In the case of POSD personnel, their job is confrontational in nature. You can't go around the city's streets looking to snap people off their livelihoods and not expect vendors to fight back. This brings to mind the case of a certain Oscar Caranto who died after an altercation with elements of the POSD. If the allegations against the POSD in the Caranto case are true, then it's excessive force. If true, they basically beat up a vendor to death.

As to the case of the woman vendor in Session Road, can it be called excessive force? Let's put on the shoes of the POSD men for a minute here. We're walking down Session Road and we spot an ambulant vendor. We approach her and ask her to give to us her goods. She refuses and holds on to the goods. As enforcers, what are we to do. Should we just let the vendor hold on to the goods or we'd rather try to wrestle them from her?

I also see a lot of commenters saying the vendor is just trying to earn a living. To make money so she can put food on the table. Of course, we all know that. The vendor knows that. The POSD men know that. But there are rules. There are laws. There are regulations. If these laws are not to be enforced then we might as well turn Session Road into a market.

I also see comments saying the POSD men should go around and catch pickpockets, thieves, and other criminal elements instead. People leaving these types of comments clearly don't understand why the POSD were set up in the first place. The POSD wasn't created to take the jobs of our policemen.

The attire of the POSD men is also a common point of criticism. I'm not fully informed about what they should be wearing or what their uniform looks like but I do believe they should be wearing them at all times while on the job. Vests and ID's if these are what's required from them. In the photo, one of the men is wearing a vest but didn't have it buttoned properly. ID's are also not visible from the men.

So what lessons should we learn from this?
1) The POSD men should be wearing their uniforms, vests, and IDs at all times while on patrol.
2) The POSD men need to apply a more friendly approach when accosting ambulant vendors.
3) Vendors should sell only where they are allowed to sell.
4) Vendors, when caught selling in a prohibited space, should give up their goods to avoid altercations.
5) Netizens should not let their emotions or the "underdog mentality" get to them when looking at photos of men-in-power confronting ordinary citizens online.What you see don't always portray the whole picture of what transpired.
6) There are laws and regulations governing the streets of Baguio City. It's best that we adhere to them.
7) POSD personnel are not evil. They are people too. In whatever thing they are being accused of, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And last but not the least, here are a couple of comments left by fellow netizens on the photo that I think made great points. I used their initials instead of their full names for privacy reasons.

H.M. says:
"We symphatize with those vendors but we have to understand also why POSD are doing that. Its their job to clean the city of illegal vendors because it is the policy of the city government to once and for all clear the central business district of illegal or ambulant vendors after so many years of abuse to the point that pedestrians and legal vendors are irritated. It is really a job where you're damn if you do it and damn if you don't perform your job."

B.D. says:
"Remember Slaughterhouse area? Ginawa po yun na relocation for the sellers. Ayaw nila. Remember hilltop na inayus ng government para may pagtindahan ng matino mga vendors? it took several months bago napuno kasi ayaw nila ng may konting bayad among others. 

Nang napuno na slots ng mga legitimate vendors, another batch of ambulant vendors ang naglabasan. . . Do we blame people kung gusto mabuhay at ang isang alam na gawin maglako? But there are rules to follow. . .laws to be implemented. . . if ayaw nating makakita ng mga ganitong sitwasyun. . .let us also do our share and not patronize ambulant vendors. . . but we dont. . . POSD people are hired to maintain order in that aspect. . . pag walang POSD. . .sinu manen sisishin pag napuno mga sidewalks and flyovers mga ambulant vendors? Im sure si Gobyerno Baguio manen. . .si Mamang police. . 

That picture? Speaks a thousand words. . .generates a lot of criticism against these implementing group. Bakit sila naka civiian? kasi pag naka uniform sila. . .malayo lang sila takbuhan na mga vendors. . . I empathize with the mother-vendors, I know somebody close na ganyan ginagawa nuon para lang me maiuwing pagkain for the family. However, I know for sure the government is doing something to curb this problem by giving out skills training sa mga nanay. 

OCSWADO, DTI, Councilo Betty Lourdes F. Tabanda's office, lots of NGO's TESDA, Baranggays, all were known to be regularly conducting skills training for nanays but with what I can see, konti lang either nag aatend or ginagamit ang natutunan. Mas maganda ang maglako. . . .walang upa (or illegally renting) walang legal fees na bayaran (sa mga kotong lang). Adu ti issues. Still boils down to WHAT WOULD YOU AS A BAGUIO CITIZEN DO TO HELP? Opinyun lang. SAlamt."