Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lessons From the CENECO Robbery by James Sy

Change – That is the best one word that can describe the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) robbery last March 2, 2012, 9:15 AM. Let me explain why.

The dinosaurs had long been extinct and it is not clear why. At least 6 theories had been forwarded by scientists, all of which had the common denominator of change. It is believed that massive gravitational, magnetic, climatic, and/or geological changes led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Others believe that they were phased out by an asteroid, comet or other space debris. In all these theories, the dinosaurs weren’t able to adapt to their new environment.

Nothing in life is constant except change, as one Greek philosopher would tell us. This truth applies not only to the time of the dinosaurs but extends even to our era. Survival of any organism dictates that it should be able to adapt to the changing environment, or if necessary, to evolve into a modified or different life form, as was the cash of fishes going into land and evolving into some land animals.

Bacolod may have been a peaceful and safe place but such perception would have been true only to a specific period of time in the past. It is but erroneous to believe or at least, perceive that what it was before is still is today. Time changes. We only need to open our eyes, ears, and heart to what’s happening all around us. Snatching, pickpockets, rape, robbery, murder, corruption,… We may not realize all these things are happening because nothing of the like had yet happened to us. But then why not wait for that to happen before taking notice?

Let’s take the case of CENECO. After the incident, the guards were issued higher caliber rifles and it was realized that there was a need for a CCTV camera. But then what happened had already happened. The robbers won't be dumb enough to return. The installation of safety measures is an indication of one's assessment of the current environment and preparedness. Preemptive measures would have been best.

Crime fighting in the USA is much more successful. Thanks in large part to the CCTV cameras which easily give cops a solid lead to solve the case. If P3.6M had been taken from the cooperative, the price of a CCTV camera would pale in comparison.

I remember way back in 2001, when I was still working at East West Bank, there was a rumor that a major bank will be robbed. Before we knew it the guards of the Central Bank (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) were already in full battle gear, complete with bullet proof vests, high powered guns, and reinforcements. The robbery did not take place but it was because of that proactive measure on the part of the BSP.

Who would have thought that a robbery will take place at CENECO. Of course, nobody. Herein lies the problem. Complacency of things that had been the usual. The usual routine, day in and day out, without any thought that anything dreadful could ever happen.

It was reported that the robbers, numbering 6 or 8, could have been professionals because it only took them 3 minutes to finish everything. This indicates militaristic background or experience. The robbery took place at a time when there are not many people paying bills and at a time when the collections were being taken out from the vault for endorsement to the armored car. This only means that the robbers had studied CENECO's time table and details of its operations. A good manifestation of Sun Tzu's Art of War, "Know yourself and your opponent."

It is a fact. Bacolod is no longer as safe as we remember it to be in the past. The CENECO may have been an isolated case but what it tells us is that there is an organized group now operating in Bacolod. As with regards the police knowing the identity of this group, they only know. But the question in the citizenry's mind is, is it possible for this event to be repeated, on another establishment? If it can happen to CENECO, what will prevent the same group from robbing much smaller establishments? These are very pertinent questions.

The relief of Bacolod Police Station Chief Ulysses Ortiz and the suspension of CENECO General Manager Sulpicio Lagarde Jr. could have served to show the citizenry that something is being done about the matter. However, what would be more important is to address the issue at hand and solve the case.

This brings us back to the best single word - change. Everybody was caught with their pants down. Hopefully this will be a lesson to everybody, including the citizenry. Since change is constant, we have to adapt and when we adapt we become proactive. But before we can adapt we need to be attuned to our environment and aware of what's happening in our surroundings. We don't dig a well when we are already dying from thirst. Just my few cents.

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