To be sure, setting up barangay tip boxes in Cebu City’s barangays to encourage maximum participation and vigilance from city residents in reporting illegal drug and criminal activities and corruption in their communities is a basic democratic process that, while considered ancient in the 21st century, has its uses and value.
The tip box initiative is part of the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Ilegal na Droga (Masa Masid) program, no doubt inherited from President Rodrigo Duterte’s days as Davao City mayor.
Already, there are fears that those with a personal or collective malicious agenda will exploit the tip box to accuse their enemies of illegal drugs and corruption along with those who may not have any ill will towards other people but may be used or are ill-informed in identifying those they deem to be engaged in criminal activities and abuse of office.
That is where effective information and evidence gathering, assessment and counter-checking would come in, but sadly, that’s where local and national government agencies are sorely lacking right now.
Contrary to fears by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the church, the tip boxes won’t necessarily violate the accused’s right to confidentiality since the DILG didn’t specifically mention that the names placed in the box will be disclosed publicly.
Along this line, it would also be important that any investigation done to verify the allegations should be downplayed or even undisclosed to protect the person/s’ privacy at least until charges are filed in court and only if it doesn’t involve sensitive cases like rape or cyberpornography.
No amount of appeal from the DILG asking the public not to exploit the barangay tip box for their own personal agenda will work because there will always be avenues for abuse in any program.
In any case, it remains to be seen if the tip box will encourage the public to help the DILG, police or the Ombudsman in identifying the illegal drug dealers, the criminal suspects and the corrupt in government.
The tip box is not unlike the suggestion boxes placed in some corner by private companies to encourage their employees to give suggestions on how to improve their operations or to make requests like more benefits and higher salaries all while protected by the cloak of anonymity.
That cloak of anonymity also gives cause for concern to the CHR, church and other stakeholders on possible abuse of the tip box; but again, it should be emphasized that this can be balanced by effective evidence gathering, thorough verification, assessment and counter-checking.
The DILG or whoever is in charge of spearheading this program should tap reliable investigators to delouse, filter and separate the tips that are worth pursuing from those that are just pure garbage.