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Is Davao City one of the safest in the world?
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 

Davao City, Google Map

How could Davao City be safe when it has death squads? This was my thought when the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on May 10, 2015 that Davao was the ninth safest city in the world.  So, I Googled to see if this report was accurate, and found a CNN report on world’s safest cities, published on January 30, 2015. CNN’s source was The Economist, and strangely enough, the report didn’t mention Davao and other Philippine cities.  

I didn’t bother to research further until I learned that many people were using the PDI report to promote Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who was still rumored to be running for president.  A promotional video about Duterte and Davao City came out on Facebook on May 28.  It mentioned the PDI report stating Davao City is the ninth safest in the world.

So, I read the PDI report again, this time carefully, and noticed that PDI was using figures from a website called numbeo.com.

Numbeo describes itself as “the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide”.  User-contributed means any reader can send information to Numbeo. My first impression then was Numbeo is similar to Wikipedia when Wikipedia was still new. But Numbeo is “mentioned or used as a source by many international newspapers and magazines including BBC, Time, The Week, Forbes, The Economist ….” So, I thought perhaps Numbeo’s data about Davao City was accurate.

Still, on June 2, 2015, I sent an email to the founder of Numbeo, Mladen Adamovic. I did not ask him about the reliability of the data, but pointed out that the data could encourage human rights violations in the Philippines: “… Are you aware of allegations that Davao City has death squads -- groups engaged in extra-judicial killing? … It is possible your inclusion of Davao City in the list of safest cities may encourage extra-judicial killings.”


Adamovic replied on the same day: “yes, I'm aware. According to our terms of use and methodology, everyone will [sic] Internet connection can contribute the content and we cannot determine that organized group or an individual altered data for Davao maliciously [emphasis mine] ….”

Note that Adamovic didn’t write that the data could have been altered by mistake, although mistakes could occur. He used a strong word instead: maliciously.

Days after I received Adamovic’s email, Davao City’s ranking in Numbeo list of safest cities rose to fifth then fourth in June 2015 and finally first in July 2015.  Online newspapers reported this “breaking news” and many Duterte supporters were delighted. But in November 2015, two criticisms about the Numbeo reports appeared online. One was a Facebook post by Sean de Dios. The other was a column by former socioeconomic planning secretary Solita “Winnie” Monsod. Monsod wrote "it is not true that Davao is the safest city in the world."

I have no record of Duterte reacting to the statement of Monsod. But the following story is well-known. On December 11, 2015, former interior secretary Mar Roxas, citing police report, said the claim that Davao City is the safest in the world is a “myth”. Two days later Duterte said if he meets Roxas he would slap him. Roxas countered by suggesting a fist fight. Duterte then said why not a gun duel instead?Black square indicates end of article.

 
OUR EMAILS

Hi Mladen Adamovic,

Numbeo.com rated Davao City 9th safest city in the world:

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/690363/davao-rated-9th-safest-city-in-the-world

Are you aware of allegations that Davao City has death squads -- groups engaged in extra-judicial killing?

An apparent case of execution by a policeman has been recorded:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6IsAJUFW5U

Discussions in social media indicate many Davao City residents don't care whether extra-judicial killing persists as long as the city is "safe". It is possible your inclusion of Davao City in the list of safest cities may encourage extra-judicial killings.

Best wishes.

Elson T. Elizaga

Hi Elson,

yes, I'm aware.

According to our terms of use and methodology, everyone will Internet connection can contribute the content and we cannot determine that organized group or an individual altered data for Davao maliciously.

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) is also ranked high in spite having very harsh sentences for crime and political exile.

On the side note, I've noticed that ifor historical data Wikipedia is full of bias regarding former Yugoslavia, which is confirmed at the Internet:

http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/is_wikipedia_biased

Mladen Adamovic
CEO
NUMBEO DOO
Drziceva 9/13, 11120 Belgrade-Zvezdara, Serbia
(Business Registration Number 20853514, Tax Identification Number 107695453)
Tel. +381-66-058-595
web: http://www.numbeo.com

 

Email of Mladen Adamovic, reply to Elson T. Elizaga

 

 

RELATED


The Wikipedia entry on numbeo.com states: "Numbeo is considered a good site for comparing everyday prices. But columnist Alistair Walsh suggested in an article written for the website Property Observer, that Numbeo's information is based on what people say and should be taken with grain of salt."

Some people have reacted to this page by suggesting that emails are fabricated. Write to Mladen Adamovic by using contact@numbeo.com. A related issue is one email contains grammatical errors. The emails have not been edited.

Published Nov. 28, 2015. Related sites added Dec. 1, 2015. Map added March 3, 2016. Link to news on "gun duel" added Sept. 18, 2016. News on bomb explosion in Davao added Dec. 9, 2016.

Thanks to Bob Couttie for the links to Safe Cities Index White Paper 2015 and Top 10 Cities in Asia.

Text copyright © 2016 Elson T. Elizaga.