Never mind. The gist of Nicholson's rant is that national security is not for pansies.
Take the case of the police storming of the Iloilo Capitol Building last week. Would we really have wanted the police to knock politely? Does anyone among us really expect our police to make a social call at a time when it had orders to execute the eviction and there was rumor that the target had assembled enemies of the state within the premises?
I don't know about you, but if the police were operating on a "better safe than sorry" mode, I believe that is totally understandable.
I watched that footage replayed so many times, too. To my civilian eyes, it did look like an overkill. It was a show of force. More force than proved necessary after all. But I've been seeing similar shows of force lately from the police. Remember that two-platoon formation of riot policemen to face down twenty demonstrators in front of Marco Polo last month? Anyway, what the overkill response is saying is that our police are up to the task of dealing with more than what they have to deal with now.
You really want a police force that is pansy?
Don't get me wrong. Nobody wants the police to go around manhandling unarmed civilians. The point is, they don't go around manhandling civilians. Yesterday, a police officer called my attention to the fact that I was waiting for the taxi three meters from the designated area at the roadside at Matina Centro. I tell you he was the most polite person I've talked to all week. He was more polite and courteous than my students. He even offered to help me move my groceries. I was in torn jeans, a ratty shirt and deadbeat slippers. No, he did not know who I was or that I'd write about him in the papers.
That filmed manhandling happened in a disputed territory where the policemen were sent to execute an eviction order. They came in with the information that among the people inside might be enemies of the state, and how were they supposed to tell the people apart? Do enemies of the state walk around with a badge of honor for all to see?
The thing is, how would the police know that the civilian is unarmed? Unless he is sure, there are some procedures to follow that are to be done exactly as prescribed to ensure that the officer does not turn casualty of his own stupidity.
It also looked like the civilians were taken by surprise. Oh, right. The police should announce that they're coming? And lose the element of surprise? You're being very funny. You dare to buck the law, take the consequences. A governor should know that. And so too should his sons who are also public servants. What where the sons doing in the Capitol, by the way? They hold office there?
So when the police is on a legitimate mission, stop arguing and raise those hands where the officer can see it. I'm afraid he has every right to search you, too. Unless he sees you're not a potential threat, remember that you got a man pumped up and jumpy, his heart hammering at 145 beats per minute. He's not about to stop and engage you in a debate. He's got a badge and a gun. Look, he's got a name tag, too. Do you really want to argue?
Besides, what does he care what your politics is? He has his orders and he means to execute it. You, on the other hand, are standing in the way. You wanna be dead meat? Be my guest.
Evict, he says. And he's got the order to show you, too. So unless you can show him incontrovertible proof that you have a right to the territory, you really should follow the law and evict. Come back when you got the papers that say you can stay. Ask him to escort you back if you fear for your life. Until then, can sitting governors at least show that they can follow the law, if not hold it sacred?
Some months back, I'd been reading up on deadly force encounters and combat psychology, running my questions and comments by some ground warfare experts. That these guys actually humor my views gives me the temerity to believe that I have become a better judge of stuff like police brutality and unwarranted force. If anything, it has lent me the lens to see beyond my civilian eyes and analyze film footages like the one sensationalizing the Iloilo Capitol Building raid.
What do I see?
Well, among other things, I see that the cameras were allowed to capture and record those scenes. It's not like the police were trying to hide what they were doing.
I also see trained men operating on autopilot, executing security sequences that they'd probably simulated over and over and over again. Yes, even the breaking of the glass panels to provide egress looked like a trained maneuver to my eyes. Systematic. And he knew where to hit, though glass could refuse to perform as practiced sometimes. But at 145 heartbeats per minute at least, tunnel vision sets in and cognitive processing turns parsimonious, it is totally possible that the man would not stop to evaluate that there already is an entrance. He's probably just focusing on the fact that it is his job to provide egress.
So, yeah, they were showing off. They're also saying that they're up to the task of securing law and order even beyond the present demands of our contentious politicking.
Is that good or is that bad?
Bet you it'll probably get worse before it gets better.
(Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to email@example.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)