Monday, March 26, 2007

Two Stories of Ineptitude

This is my column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

When my officemate recounted this story, all of us who were listening were aghast. Alarm bells rung inside our minds.

My officemate’s 11 year-old son and five of his friends were having a great time the other Saturday at this upscale mall in Alabang, the one whose name is synonymous with celebration. They were dropped off at the mall, which happened to be just a few blocks away from where they lived, to cool away the infernal heat.

Boys being boys, they were drawn to some electronic gadgets inside this computer store when a decent looking guy chatted them up, probably under the impression that they were very rich kids with lots of money on them. And then the guy guided them outside the store. The guy zeroed in on my officemate’s son, and started roughing him up. He dragged the boy towards one corner of the mall, still in full view of mallgoers, near a row of public telephone stations. There, the guy held up the 11 year-old boy.

The man initially asked the boy to hand over his cellphone. He was not wielding a gun or knife, but he was threatening the boy that bodily harm would befall him and his friends if he resisted. Fortunately, the boy was not carrying his cellphone at that time and when he relayed this information, the guy frisked him in public. Finding no cellphone, he decided to simply take the boy’s wallet, which contained all of three hundred pesos. And then he fled.

I know that times are hard and as a consequence thereof, there are desperate and ruthless people who are driven to extreme measures just to make money.

But preying on children in malls takes the cake for extreme callousness!

And apparently, that wasn’t the first time this happened in that mall. When I told my friends about the incident, they told me that they have heard a number of similar stories happening inside that mall. It seems that the proximity of the mall to the nearby posh villages has made it a magnet to some rogues who patrol the deceptively sterile air-conditioned environment to prey on some hapless victims, particularly children.

What was infuriating and disturbing was that when the parents of the boys sat down with the security officials of the mall, they discovered that the mall’s close circuit cameras were not actually functioning.

One would think that malls, with their very strict security procedures at their gates, would have foolproof security measures in place. But it seems that security measures are nothing but a faƧade. As my officemate recounted, the security officials of the mall that they talked to did not seem to know what to do. They were generally inept in their handling of the incident. They even failed to have the incident reported in the nearby police precinct.

Malls are the convenient destination for families and kids this summer. I hope that malls really think through their security measures, not just at their entrances but also inside as well.

***

I know that many others have already expressed consternation and utter bewilderment over this continuing public relations nightmare involving Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo’s arrest, detention and that botched attempt to drag him to Leyte. He was subsequently brought back to Manila and all kinds of lame and pathetic excuses were made to justify the embarrassing faux pas.

But I just can’t help but add my voice to the chorus of “what the %$#@ was that —is all these—about?”

The whole thing just does not make sense. It is beyond comprehension. It is surreal. It is enough to make one wonder if there is anyone in this administration who is still thinking straight.

For a government that needs to downplay and deflect criticism about its authoritarian and fascist tendencies, it sure is getting itself into more trouble with this series of embarrassing events. One can’t help but wonder whether there is truth to the various conspiracy theories being bandied about.

Was it a botched up assassination attempt?

A public relations stunt meant to deflect attention away from the United States Senate inquiry into the series of extra-judicial killings in the country, gone awry perhaps? Was the government trying to highlight the fact that the communists are just as guilty of summary executions as evidenced by a case filed by the family of victims of the famous communist purge more that a decade ago?

A pure case of miscommunication and general ineptitude? And is it also true that some eager beaver general simply got his instructions wrong and screwed up the whole operations?

Was it a validation of the theory that there was a faction in the military beyond the control of MalacaƱang? Has the military become so powerful that even the President is powerless to control it? Is the President’s debt of gratitude so huge that she is now captive to the whims of certain factions in the military?

Or has this administration simply become so immune to public criticism, so detached from reality that it thinks it can pull brazen stunts involving violation of civil liberties just like that?

The whole thing was simply absurd, preposterous, and downright stupid. It is like shooting oneself deliberately in the foot in the middle of a marathon. It’s like, well, sabotaging whatever little success one is getting.

The President’s approval ratings have just gone up a notch, although it remains in negative territory. And then something like this happens—in full view of the people. With cameras recording the whole caper. During an election season. At a time when the government is reeling from accusations of being fascist and authoritarian. When the militants are determined to increase their numbers at the House of Representatives through the party-list system.

The tendency of this government to self-destruct has become legendary. No wonder the opposition, despite being in disarray and despite committing major blunders in the campaign, is still generally more popular. With capers like that one, who needs the opposition to point out what is wrong with this administration?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

HI Bong. I have a truly tragic story about that same mall because it affected someone close to us. I still remember very vividly. It was in January 2001 EDSA when, after joining the rally, my friends and officemates were having dinner at the MegaMall when my officemate who's also my kumare received a shocking call. Her brother was found dead in a vacant lot in that area of Alabang, his killers left his company ID that's why he was identified. He was a young promising engineer in one of those manufacturing companies in Sucat and apparently he passes by this mall you are referring to before going home. That's where the godless thugs picked him up and for reasons until now are unknown to the family he was shot dead. It was an unsolved case even after the family tried hard to find the answers. No leads, and ineptitude left and right. It was devastating for the family, he was 2nd to the youngest brother. He left behind 3 very young sons.
These malls are not very safe, not for children esp. if unattended. And not even for adults, judging by our experience.
--MommyJo

Sa Wari Ko said...

Tinawagan ko na ang Security Department ng Festival Mall, kung ito nga ang synonymous sa "celebration" na tinutukoy mo.

Tinawagan ko rin si Ruffy Biazon.

Wala sa kanila ang matinong kausap. Yung kay Ruffy Biazon naman, walang nasagot.

Kapag naging talamak ito sa Muntinlupa, guguho ang image na binubuo nila.

Sigh!

Ruffy Biazon said...

Sa Wari Ko,

Thank you for thinking of calling my office. However, you must have called by Batasang Pambansa office, that's why no one is answering.

Congress is in recess now, so the offices there are closed. All congressmen are in their district offices now, especially since the campaign period has already started.

You may reach my District office at 809-3132 or 807-1026.

I have taken note of your problem and will call the attention of the concerned officials, particularly the PNP and the Mayor;s office which has direct responsibility in ensuring peace and order in the city and the compliance of business establishments to security measures.

Yours truly,

COng. Ruffy Biazon
Lone District, Muntinlupa City
www.ruffybiazon.ph
congruff@zpdee.net
r_biazon@compass.com.ph