Secure Jaro Cathedral but don’t shut off mobile lines

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL

“There is no priority higher than the prevention of terrorism.”–John Ashcroft

NEW YORK CITY — It’s normal for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be jittery and panicky these days after the Jolo Cathedral bombing that killed 27 churchgoers, but let’s hope the PNP won’t ask anew the telecommunication companies to suspend the mobile phone lines during the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria de Jaro in Jaro district, Iloilo City in the Philippines on February 1-2, 2019.

The Candelaria de Jaro fiesta is one of the most attended and vastly prominent religious gatherings in Asia.

Suspending a vital communication network during this mammoth occasion would be antithesis; it can’t prevent anarchy if it will happen.

It will only embolden troublemakers or small-time terror punks to disrupt events that don’t have direct communication access to authorities and the public.

A huge district event with a suspended communication facility is a recipe for catastrophe; it will exacerbate tension and public paranoia.

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If the attacks are carried by suicide bombers like what happened in Jolo, according to initial investigations, even if we suspend the Panay Electric Company (PECO) lines chaos will still occur.

Determined bombers don’t give a damn whether mobile phone lines are shut off or active.

Their minds are programmed to kill and unleash a carnage by all means.

By all means, however, the PNP must secure the Jaro Cathedral premises where a large crowd normally converges to lit candles, pay homage to the patron saint, and attend the Mass.

The procession also romps off and ends in the Jaro Cathedral.

If terrorists or any lunatic, God forbid, will use long distance or remote-controlled bombs as feared by the PNP, the terrorists will have to belabor themselves in planting or distributing the explosive gadgets first on their target areas.

It’s not difficult to spot them if they act suspiciously, especially if they carry heavy items in their backpacks, during the planning stage.

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With the PNP’s vast intelligence machinery and the mushrooming CCTVs, these terrorists will be stopped on their tracks even before approaching their target areas.

We have abundance of watchdogs and alert residents in the different districts: barangay tanods, vendors, trisikad drivers, cabbies, among other ordinary folk, who can easily notice if someone not familiar with them behaves abnormally in their areas.

Let’s leave the mobile phone lines alone.

Instead, the PNP should buttress their monitoring network and surround vital areas that have potential attractions and interests to the terror groups.

Sometimes all of these are just figments of our imagination.

It may not happen, after all.