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Rough Cuts: Church security measures need reassessment

Leaders of certain politicians have never been short of ways to generate audience for their favored candidates just to give them better chances of winning.

Take the case of this political leader in a barangay in Davao City’s third political district. The leader who is also president of a local mortuary association, suddenly called a supposedly emergency meeting of its members numbering about 200 persons. The meeting was to tackle certain changes in mortuary assistance policies.

But lo and behold, the meeting suddenly became a political caucus of sort because some candidates for councilor of the district came apparently invited by the political leader.

Well, the candidates have a captured audience that did not have other option but to listen to what the politicians promised them. They were in the middle of the meeting when the candidates arrived and were allowed to speak in the midst of the activity.

Indeed Filipinos really have their unique way of doing their things including showing their candidates the level of their clout taking advantage of mortuary associations that the leaders head.

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Last Easter Sunday’s series of bombings in Sri Lanka was perhaps the bloodiest of all the recent terrorist attacks. As of the latest count last Tuesday morning, a total of 290 were accounted dead and some 500 others injured seriously or slightly.

According to news reports the bombings in two Sri Lanka’s Catholic Churches, four malls and a building that was at the time being raided by the police, were perpetrated by suicide attackers.

So bloody and destructive were the bombings that even the statues of saints inside the attacked churches were bathed with fresh blood from the victims.

Seeing the morbid scenes in the bombing sites in Sri Lanka gives us a chilling thought of what could happen if such incident is perpetrated in the Philippines’ most visited sites like churches and malls. Of course, church bombings are not new in the country. Recently the Jolo cathedral was attacked reportedly by a suicide bomber. More than 20 died in the incident. On September of 2016 the Roxas night market site in Davao City was attacked resulting to the death of 14 people and wounding of more than forty others.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the San Pedro cathedral was also bombed leaving several people dead and injured.

These incidents somehow lead us to think of the level of sufficiency in the security measures being implemented by law enforcement authorities in Davao City’s churches. Our sudden desire of the need for re-assessment of the security measures being laid out in the city’s churches came as we relate the scenes we have witnessed in the vicinity of the Our Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Church in Calinan last Easter Sunday with the gory scenes of the Sri Lanka bombings we saw on television.

We have noticed that the presence of law enforcement authorities in the Church vicinity was concentrated at the entry gate near the grotto area. Yes, there were policemen, Task Force Davao and police auxiliaries posted at the exit gate beside the entry route towards the school administered by the Church. However, inspections of bags and other hand-carried containers were done only at the entry gate and only on people entering the church compound.

During end of each mass church goers pile up at the egress gate like sardines trying to get out of the premises ahead of the others. In addition, the side of the road at the exit gate area is also normally packed with tricycles vying to get passengers ahead of each other.

This scenario has led us to think that the crowd of church goers coming out from the just-ended mass becomes extremely vulnerable to terrorist targets. That is, if there really are suicide bombers out to sacrifice their own lives just to kill people en masse to show their adherence to the cause they represent, rightly or wrongly.

The security scheme adopted in the Calinan Church especially in letting the faithful uncontrolled use of the exit gate can easily be taken advantage by any murderous terrorist. All he has to do is mingle with the crowd coming out of the exit gate. And with explosives wrapped around his body the terrorist could easily explode it and blow everyone in the crowd’s midst into bloody pieces.

May be the local law enforcers and government security experts should look into this apparent weakness in the security procedures and implement corrective measures.

After all even the police and the military do not have an idea who are the individual terrorist out to attack intended targets.

The Calinan church security situation may not be the only one in Davao City. There may be other houses of worship that are similarly situated. Should the authorities wait for a Sri Lanka incident to happen before reviewing the existing security measures being led out?

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