Malilong: Yes to policemen, but civilians?

TERRORISM or robbery?

The police and the Armed Forces were quick to say it was the latter when a lone gunman barged into a casino in Pasay City and set gambling tables on fire, leaving at least 37 victims dead from toxic fumes. It was murder, make it mass murder, even if he did not shoot them, firing at surveillance cameras instead. The intent to kill was evident, he just used a not so often employed means to execute it.

Authorities and the casino management claimed the killer left a bag containing about 113 million pesos worth of gambling chips in one of the establishment’s toilets and cited it as proof of his intentions. Maybe so but one cannot help asking the question: since robbery essentially involves intent to gain, what value does a bagful of chips from a casino that has been robbed have? Unless he was mentally deranged, he knew that the chips were worthless.

No, I’m not saying that the police/military version is unbelievable. The last thing I would do is give currency to a claim from an organization of terrorists whose reason for being is to kill without reason. But some hard questions have to be asked and answered with more than just trust-the-police, were-on-top-of-this assurances.

Speaking of which, how was the killer able to gain access to the casino brandishing a gun and the inflammable substance that he must have poured on the tables before igniting them? It is not accurate to say that he sneaked in; a more appropriate description would be that he barged into the premises. These world-class casinos have elaborate security and detection systems. How come the apparent ease with which he beat them? Even the Cebu City police chief, Senior Supt. Joel Doria is perplexed.

As it always happens in all cases of this nature, we’re now talking about upgrading our security plans in hotels, resorts and other places that attract a large number of people. Discussions like this inevitably give you an uneasy feeling about how vulnerable you must have been until the upgrade. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome event when people gather to discuss ideas on how to make you safer.

One of the changes, proposed by Doria, was to allow armed policemen inside hotel and similar buildings. This is long overdue. Until then, I didn’t even know that our cops are barred from bringing their guns into these places. Ii is understandable that hotel owners and managers worry about the sight of armed men scaring off their patrons and guests but it’s time that they think beyond ringing cash registers. As we say in the shipping company where I work, think safety.

But I don’t agree that we should allow civilians to get the same privilege, PTCFOR (permit to carry firearm outside residence) or no PTCFOR. Forget the “force multiplier” theory, Councilor Dave Tumulak. We can’t have too many armed people inside crowded places. That they went through a rigorous process before they were issued their gun license is not any assurance that they will not abuse it. Everyone should be involved in peacekeeping but let the police and the military men handle the shooting part. They’re especially trained to do that.


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