THE Sto. Niño fiesta, along with its mardi gras and other cultural activities, came and went without any violent incident. Good. Be grateful.

It didn’t show though who was right among those who debated on the proposal to shut down cell sites last Jan. 14 and 15: Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña who proposed the idea or Vice Mayor Edgar Labella and former mayor Mike Rama who opposed it.

Neither Tomas nor Edgar and Mike presented the effects of a “zero signal.” Which was what it was, total breakdown of service and not the earlier-talked-about selected locations within Cebu City only.

(Not just Cebu City but also Talisay, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue cities and the towns of Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan and Minglanilla.)

Core of dispute

Tomas apologized for the inconvenience, which didn’t tell the extent. And the vice mayor and Mike deplored the failure to protect devotees and revelers and the Sinulog being owned by all the Cebuanos. Which didn’t address the point of dispute.

And that is, was the shutdown necessary?

A fact that the disputants didn’t raise was that disabling cell phones would eliminate only one way to trigger detonation of an IED, or improvised explosive device. Other means, direct and remote, are available; they were used and are used by terrorists when cell sites are switched off or signals are jammed.

They include radio signal, trip wire, timer, cordless phone, radio, garage door opener and the like. Lots of ways, even if one counts out those whod blow themselves up with the bomb. The cell phone is a convenience that a stubborn terrorist could do without.

It helped

The “zero signal” of course helped. But one can’t tell if it was necessary. There was no credible threat based on solid intel data. We just heard about the Hilongos, Leyte bombing.

Not even Edgar and Mike could guarantee protection of safe targets like the Sinulog crowds. They couldn’t criticize Tomas without sounding like Supermen who could do better. And God’s mercy would be invaluable, as one councilor suggested we’d seek, but theres no guarantee about divine intent.

What may be done in the future is to assess collateral damage that a “zero signal” could bring, for which the public must prepare.