Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Suicide bomber scare

Over the past few days news headlines have been buzzing over reports of a so-called security expert who claims to have brought aboard bomb components on a plane from Davao to Manila. He even claims to have assembled the bomb while in-flight. As per this so-called security expert, he only did it to highlight the inadequacy of screening measures in Philippine airports.

I don't know about you but this stunt upsets me to no end.

First of all, let's dispense with any hint of noble intentions on the part of this so-called security expert and his local government sponsor. Publicity is what this shill was after, plain and simple. That much he got but at the expense of the peace of mind of thousands of air travellers in the country. Security checks at the airport are a hassle enough, and now he makes it worse by acting so coy about his methods.

Even now there are conflicting reports of his accomplishment. Did he actually smuggle in bomb components into the plane, or didn't he? Did he actually assemble the bomb in the plane, or didn't he?

If he did bring aboard and assemble a fully working bomb on the plane, then he needlessly endangered the lives of hundreds of passengers. Bomb expert or not, there is significant risk in actually transporting the components in flight, more so if he actually put it together.

On the other hand, this morning's TV interview with the head of Task Force Davao -- which appears to have had a hand in this publicity stunt -- claims that the so-called security expert only brought aboard certain components but not the C4 explosive compound necessary to complete the bomb. So what exactly did he bring aboard? Can we be sure that those were bomb components? Even a cellphone can be part of a working bomb: could he have meant that he brought his cellphone aboard?

Is it necessary to perform security tests of this nature? Arguably, yes, if only to see if screening measures are working properly. But it shouldn't have been brought to the extent in which it was carried.

In one such case in the United States, the security expert smuggled in a pistol through a metal detector. When he had done so, he immediately announced his accomplishment and identity to the airport security personnel. That's the proper way to do it.

But what really bothers me is the so-called security expert himself. It is said that he regularly conducts training for the Davao police. If this is true, then what kind of people are our authorities consorting with?

Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common in Philippine government. We have an assortment of shills, charlatans, and confidence men who work their way into the system as freelance consultants, peddling this influence and that for a slice of the pie. All too often, these people are not certified and have neither a code of ethics or sense of responsibility to the public.

It is only right that this so-called security expert be prosecuted, if not for reckless endangerment then for malicious mischief. And his backers should be prosecuted along with him.