Life in the Age of Terror

Life in the Age of Terror

By Jose Bayani Baylon

June 05, 2017

THE attack of a “lone wolf” at a concert in the British city of Manchester was still fresh in our consciousness when we in Manila were rocked by news of a gunman burning up Resorts World Manila a few midnights ago. And before we could even find

out who the perpetrator of the RWM carnage was, we get reports of another incident at London Bridge resulting in a handful of dead and many more injured

Terrorist-perpetrated or not, one thing is clear -- we live in the age of incidents such as these that are sure to spread terror in the hearts and minds of the public.

These incidents are impossible to prevent. But how authorities respond to them can separate a well- handled one from a continuing disaster.

London is a city known for its bobbies, policemen who walk around their beat with a whistle and a nightstick on hand. When the perpetrators of the London Bridge attack swung into action, it took eight minutes for armed policemen to arrive, eventually

gunning down the three men who had emerged from the van to begin a stabbing spree. Eight minutes is a mighty quick response time - imagine how long it would take a PNP squad car to arrive on the scene of a crime? -- but if reports were true that

two unarmed security men were in the area but were unable to do much precisely because they were unarmed, then one wonders how much less damage the three attackers could have inflicted had they been subdued earlier.

In contrast I was watching the live press con of the PNP chief when he announced, among other things, that the lone gunshot victim was a RSW security guard who had shot himself in the confusion. This was already past 7 a.m., about 7 hours after

the gunman barged into RSW to begin his mad rampage. At that time no one knew of the 30+ bodies, victims of asphyxiation, and so I was left with the relieved feeling that the madman was rightfully the only death on record with all others injured in the process of evacuation or (in the case of the security guard) panic.

Turns out, the PNP chief would be wrong. Terribly wrong.

Living with the prospect of a terrorizing (if not terrorist) incident happening In our midst is apparently a reality of the age in which we live. But the prospect of being caught in the middle of such an incident (knock on wood) is made even more

harrowing at the thought that the authorities may not be truly prepared to handle one. Remember the Luneta hostage drama? That was one “kapalpakan” unmatched in the annals of rescue operations, but this one at Resorts World could come close.

Why do I say this? Because as the PNP chief himself explained, the SWAT team was doing a floor by floor clearing operation (of Maxim’s I suppose) and had reached the ninth floor when the gunman had gone down to the second floor, only to return to the fifth floor where he finally ended his life.

So what the PNP chief was saying was that the gunman had slipped through the PNP dragnet as it was going up the floors. How could you call that a sweep or a clearing operation then? How thorough a sweep do we do? And you mean to tell me we don’t leave security forces on every floor we have cleared? Sheesh.

Makes me wonder which to fear more: the prospect of being caught in the middle of a terrorizing attack or the prospect of being rescued...

Such, I guess, is life in the Age of Terror.