DAYS after the bombing in Davao City that prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the country under a “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence,” both the government and the public are still groping to find the middle ground between being jumpy and being lax. This is actually the difficult part of battling the unpredictability that makes terrorist attacks difficult to counter.
Authorities have called on the public to be vigilant, to look out for suspicious persons, suspicious acts and even suspicious items and inform those concerned about them. But vigilance can also push people's actions to the extreme, which was what happened in some instances in some parts of the country when pranks led to panicky reaction from those that were targeted.
Last Tuesday, Station 2 of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) received a report about an abandoned bag at the Cebu City Sports Center. Police officers dispatched to the area eventually found out that this was a hoax. This has prodded Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak to ask the public not to make false calls. That could in turn breed laxity because people may already hesitate reporting anything that is based on mere suspicions for fear this would be considered a “false call.”
Laxity could also manifest itself as time moves farther from the day of the bombing. The usual cycle is laxity followed by a terrorist strike, a period of vigilance and then laxity. That is when terrorists pounce again—when their offensive is least expected to happen.
On this, the bigger responsibility is with the government to ensure that there would not be any letup in the vigilance despite the prank or false reports. That is precisely why the country is being placed in a state of national emergency. Authorities should not lower their guard or give the perception that they are lowering the guard because that would jack up the terrorists' daring. And they should do this without making people panicky.
By taking the lead, government could hopefully whip up in the public the continued vigilance that could prevent terrorist attacks.