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ROUGH CUTS: Where vigilance somehow failed

WHAT have the men appointed to the highest positions in the command hierarchy of both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the past four years in common? All of them were, at one time or another, assigned in Mindanao, the hotbed of the so-called Moro separatist movement and the ideologist New People’s Army (NPA) rebellion.

Retired former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano, now Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG)’ then AFP Chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero, and the four who came after him including incumbent AFP Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay whose appointment was confirmed by the Congressional Commission on Appointment (CA) only last week – all of them were given Mindanao commands.

The PNP National Directors who served since 2016, all except Retired Director General Oscar Albayalde, also had their stints in Mindanao. And it was only recently that even newly assumed and soon outgoing PNP Chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan was once the Police Provincial Director of Compostela Valley, now Davao de Oro Province.

Well, if such an opportunity to be assigned in this Southern Philippine island is to be considered a precedent, then the chances of Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar making it to the top of the PNP could be nil. That is, if his fellow aspirants have the fortune of having been assigned in Mindanao and got to have the opportunity to meet the President in Davao City or elsewhere in the island.

But of course we are fully convinced that the President makes his choices based on the performance of the aspirants as well as their loyalty to the government and the Constitution. And he is known to personally make a deep discernment of the persons whose names are submitted for his consideration.

Hence, General Eleazar’s chances are not totally lost. And it could come in only about two months, the length of service of General Cascolan when he reaches the police mandatory retirement age. Unless of course if his term is extended by the President.

-oOo-

President Rodrigo Duterte is clear in his position that terrorism remains the most dreaded threat to the country and the Filipino people.

He reiterated this during his visit in Jolo, Sulu where a terrorist double bombing attack last August 4 killed fifteen persons and wounded several others.

In his speech in Jolo the President reiterated his call for everyone to help in the fight against terrorism. No, not in the field of combat per se, but in practicing a culture of vigilance. That is, that anyone who notices suspicious characters in their community must immediately report to the police authorities.

This, the President said, will ensure that the government security forces will be able to monitor those “strangers” and possibly get their real identity and their intention of coming to the area.

When this is done, the likelihood is that whatever deadly objective this or those persons have in mind is obviated from being pursued. That is, that the suspicious persons can be unmasked and their mission is stopped right on the track. And more importantly, the security forces can arrest them even before they are able to do their thing.
So, we were not surprised when Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio echoed aloud the plea of her father for everyone to be vigilant against potential terrorist attacks in their respective community.

And for us, the admonition of Mayor Sara for Davaoenos to practice the culture of vigilance could not have been said in the most suited occasion – the 4th commemoration of the Roxas Night market bombing last September 2.

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Talking of culture of vigilance, it hit us like a lightning bolt on a hot noon day sun.

We mean, the failure of the people at the Gotamco area along Leon Garcia st. in Agdao district to stop a drunk man from burning his rented boarding house. But of course they may have valid reasons for not being able to stop a guy from starting a fire in the area in the dead of night.

Yes, a man named Roberto Manalong who initially told police and fire investigators that he lost sanity to the point that he did not know what he was doing, admitted he set his boarding house on fire at about 2 o’clock dawn last September 3.

His dastardly act resulted to the burning of some 60 houses. As a consequence, hundreds of families immediately lost residence. The victims, already wary of the deadly Corona Virus Disease pandemic, are now hit with another calamitous incident that further thrust them deep into the muck of poverty.

Because of the quarantine and its attendant restrictions in movement of people, the fire victims are now confronted with homelessness, lack of food and clothing in addition to the earlier loss of their livelihood activities.

That was why we somewhat saw totally pitiful sights on television of the fire victims pleading for government assistance. They know that without aid from the government and other charitable institutions and Good Samaritans their suffering could be worse than being infected with CoViD twice over.

And all these because of an act of one inebriated person who may have escaped the vigilance of residents in an overly thickly populated community in Davao City.

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