On involving survivors in securing peace and order in the affected communities

A strategy used in community development field work to reach a village population quickly and establish working relations with the residents is to go through village leaders (who are not necessarily the public officials).  This can be applied in the areas devastated by Haiyan, especially the urban centers like Tacloban where concerns of lawlessness are reported.

If I’m the Tacloban Mayor, I’d send some personnel (equipped with a PA system because we don’t want people unnecessarily straining their voice box and ears to deliver and hear the message; I mean, how many of us has the gift to project our voices to a scattered audience of hundreds?) around the town to call in past and current Barangay Tanods (village police) and volunteers.  I’d meet with them about establishing a round the clock security watch similar to the system of maintaining peace and order in the Barangays.  In normal Barangay operations, the Tanods are tasked to patrol the neighborhoods and refer cases of neighborhood disturbances to the Barangay Council for resolution.  In minor cases, the Tanods themselves can resolve the cases with the concerned residents.

For Tacloban, since there are no operational villages to speak of now, but homeless people scattered throughout the town, the first task of this civil security watch group would be to identify the present lay out of the town in terms of living spaces occupied by the survivors.  Their output would have to be a map indicating survivors’ whereabouts (in my years of development work, I am always surprised that villagers, children and adults alike, especially in rural areas, know the lay out of their villages like the back of their hands; they know where each and every household, structure, river, creek, water source, boundary are located in space.  I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the complete lay out of my City.  I have to buy a map sold by tourist establishments!).

Next task is to go and approach these clusters of survivors, communicate to them the plan and its objectives, and recruit point-persons responsible for each cluster.  Camp rules and security protocols (beyond those that are non-negotiable) for the community of survivors would be discussed within the clusters and voted on in plenary among their representatives i.e. the point-persons.  The civil security watch group (barangay tanods and volunteers) patrols and secures the town; confers with the cluster point-persons on any security and safety issues.  Hopefully, a semblance of peace and order is established (even without the armed forces).

In any case, again, community participation is important not only because we want to reestablish democratic order but also to counter, among the survivors, idleness and its negative effects and also to help them regain control of their lives.  Also, the scheme mentioned above does not veer away from what they are already familiar with so they don’t have to work up their over-stressed brains in order to understand how it works.  But more than anything else, the situation shows that in the end it all boils down to the extent of local people’s desire to want to rebuild their community. Field and aid workers of I/NGOs not directly taking part in the rescue and relief operations are pulled out of the areas by their organizations for security reasons.  However these workers “ate and slept with the people”, they are not from these places.  Visitors cannot linger for long in the homes of their hosts.  They too have their own homes and communities; they are assigned elsewhere.  Truly, it is the local people and their governments who stay behind and do the day-to-day work after everyone else leaves.  Safety and security at home is therefore a concern of the local people more than anyone else’s.  But of course locals have to realize that and it is in their participation in the process of securing their communities that it is hoped they are able to make that connection.

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