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How do they spot a terrorist?

Herbie Gomez

EXCEPT for the aggravated traffic jams caused by government checkpoints, the situation in the city has been “normal” since Tuesday night when President Duterte placed the whole of Mindanao under martial law as an offshoot of the clashes between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City. It should be “business as usual” in most parts of Mindanao in the next two months if the intention of the Duterte administration is to test the waters. It needs to deodorize martial law.

Martial law has always had a bad name especially in this country that saw one of its darkest periods during the Marcos years. Therefore, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if the Mindanao martial law would have little or no effect at all on the way of life of most people in Mindanao during its early stages.

Besides, you don’t expect soldiers and police officers to turn into monsters overnight. Respect for basic civil liberties has been a part of their training and that is something many if not, most of them can throw into the trash barrel just like that. But wait till some scoundrels in uniform realize the kind of power that they possess. Wait till the morally inferior trigger-happy thug realizes that the concept of civilian supremacy over the military has been blurred or, worse, no longer applies. Time is an ingredient in the ability of unchecked power to corrupt.

I’ve always wondered how police officers and soldiers manning checkpoints can tell if people in a car are terrorists or not by just looking through half-opened side windows.

So how does it work?

Do they say at the back of their heads: “This guy has an ugly face. He must be a terrorist”? Or, “The driver is wearing a Barong. He is honorable and law-abiding”?

I think random checkpoints are effective because of the element of surprise. But predictability defeats the purpose of inspections. In order to catch, surprise the target.

By now, everyone knows that there are checkpoints set up on a primary road in Barangay Iponan, near the bridge on the coastal road, in Puerto, etc.. Unless the terrorist is really dumb, he would take his time and not dare to get through these checkpoints with high-powered firearms and bombs in his car. Common sense would tell him to wait until it’s clear.

The checkpoints are aggravating the traffic jams in the city. But at the least, they are also keeping terrorists away from the city–for now. I guess that is the bitter pill we have to take.

Filipino citizenship is not limited to the place of your birth or immediate surroundings. When “Sendong” struck, Filipinos from other parts of the country were one with us. It was the same with “Yolanda.” Every Filipino is a stakeholder. So cut the Mindanaoan versus Luzonian/Visayan crap. That is a divide-andule tactic. That is not good. There is only Filipino.

To state that one need not fear or worry about martial law because he thinks he won’t be affected by it anyway is a selfish, self-centered point to make. That is a morally inferior position.

When outrageous and reprehensible pronouncements are swept under the carpet or, worse, are defended, and when wrong is made to look right, I guess you can say that, yes, there exists a cult-like following. Pastilan.


About Hgomez

TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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