Sunday, August 18, 2019

Velez: Securing more than your backpack


IN OUR visit to church last Sunday, February 17, we got to see how Davao City’s no backpack, no big handbag policy is in place on its third week. There were no more long lines of church goers getting their bags inspected. There was only one of the church gates open, and one armed personnel was guarding that gate.

The church was still filled with people. We still spotted a couple of mothers bringing big handbags, but nobody cared to get rattled.

After mass, we wondered if the people “adjusted” to this policy, and if this is really worth the trouble for our peace.

UP Mindanao Professor Aya Ragragio wrote about this “new normal”, of more armed personnel, more checkpoints, more mobile units roaming around the city. Last month’s DAVRAA event seem to have more security personnel than athletes here in the city.

Ragragio asks an important question: if we begin to equate peace as having more military people securing us, doesn’t this speak of a failure of peace?

A friend pointed out how this new rule seems to contradict the “Exhibit A” image of Davao, where cultures and tribes thrive with respect and understanding. But as Ragragio asks: How did we get to this point?

The other side will say this is how Martial Law is supposed to be. Now on its third extension since 2017, the military says we are still under threat.

But how reliable is this claim? Didn't the president said after “liberating” Marawi that the threat is now reduced? Doesn’t Martial Law bloat up this threat?

Facts are more blurry when we go back to that Jolo church blast. The military already knew of the threat. Security was tight, yet the blasts still happened. Critics can’t help but think this is history happening again, a prelude to a nationwide authoritarian rule.

I wonder what’s next after banning backpacks? What if the next threat comes from a cellphone, or a car, or a box? If it’s a box, should they ban boxes and deliveries? If it’s a car, would it be safe to ban cars from parking any place?

Again, have we got to a point where we have to be afraid to go out?

Or, is this a diversion from the real problems, like are we secured about finding a job, a house, a land to farm, commodities to buy, now that endo, reclamation, infra projects and condos, rice importation and TRAIN are hitting us like a deluge and there are no safety nets.

In this case, security goes beyond checking our backpacks. We need to check government if it is securing our bellies, our plates, our pockets are not empty.


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