Jojo A. Robles

CSI: Manila returns

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It’s not true that there’s a ban on hammer sales at the mall. But the order to regulate the sale of hammers – which is based on an agreement signed between the police and mall owners earlier this year, after a similar attack by the so-called “Martilyo Gang” – reminds me of a problem that once supposedly stymied NASA, the American space agency.


NASA’s engineers were once confronted with the problem of finding a pen that would allow astronauts write in space, where there is no gravity to make ink flow. According to the story, after months of study and millions of dollars spent, NASA developed a pen that would write even in zero gravity.

The Americans were so proud of their invention that they asked their space-race rivals, the Russians, if they had gotten around to solving the writing-in-space riddle. As a matter of fact, the Russians said, they already had: their cosmonauts used pencils.

Regulating sales of hammers shows the dearth of common sense in this government, whose leaders like to play at being police investigators. And the order typifies the knee-jerk reaction of officials who don’t think things through – but who will jump at every chance to appear like they’re in the middle of it all, “monitoring the situation,” interviewing security guards and what-have-you.

CSI:Manila, starring President Noynoy Aquino and his loyal sidekick, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, rushed to SM North Edsa right after the robbery gang struck at a jewelry store, using the old ruse of buying hammers at a hardware inside the mall and using these implements to smash display cases before getting lost in the panicked Sunday-night crowd to make good their escape. The upshot of the daring robbery was the revival of the old agreement, which decreed that people who buy hammers will only get a receipt and pick up their potential robbery aids when they exit the mall.

How this order will stop robbery gangs from using other implements that can smash display cases like golf clubs, baseball bats and even frozen meat products (as one friend suggested, while christening this gang-to-be the “Cold Cuts Gang”) was obviously not considered. The order, as far as I know, also did not say if jewelry stores should have better security arrangements, including shatter-proof glass to use in their displays and more security personnel of their own, since the malls don’t really care what happens to their tenants, anyway.

All we get is an order regulating hammer sales, because the group (groups, more likely) that pulled off the crimes used hammers. Brilliant, right?

* * *

Speaking of the heads of CSI:Manila, I read that Roxas has defended his and Aquino’s presence at the mall because “it is better to be criticized for being there than for not being there” when the lives of people are endangered. Just like when he and Aquino suddenly went to he upscale Serenda condo complex, I guess.

But Roxas must have forgotten Aquino’s sordid record of disappearing during times when dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people are endangered, everything from the bloody Rizal Park hostage-taking to the landfall of Typhoon Yolanda in Leyte. And, lest we forget, on the very morning after the SM robbery, CSI:Manila never got anywhere near the place in Taguig where a bus fell from the Skyway, killing 21 people instantly.

Instead, the Lone Ranger and Tonto make an appearance only when the businesses of big campaign contributors are threatened, like, yes, Serendra and SM. Oh, and the fact that SM’s latest celebrity endorser – or, as the press release said, without irony, the “new face” of the mall chain – was presidential sister Kris Aquino didn’t hurt.

And I can get why Aquino and Roxas had to appear at Serendra, because a terrorist attack had supposedly taken place. But for the President to show up at a mall after a robbery elevates the status of this “Martilyo Gang” to that of the Moro National Liberation Front or some really big threat to the nation; the robbers’ palms must be sore from all the high-fiving in the hideout.

Nice try, Mar, but I actually liked you better in Tacloban, when you were blackmailing the officials of that city to sign a waiver or “bahala na kayo sa buhay ninyo.” (Perhaps there were votes in 2016 to be had at the mall but I doubt if you will get any of them.)

There is no sympathy for ordinary people in the CSI:Manila mall tour, unfortunately, or the Aquino-Roxas show would have also gone to the Skyway crash scene, as well, making life difficult for police investigators like they did at Serendra with their retinues of bodyguards and that fellow who carries Aquino’s Coke and Marlboros. There is just presidential “uzi-ing” and showing to the deep-pocketed contributors that, yes, we are doing our jobs – even if nobody elected us forensics experts and amateur Sherlock Holmeses.

If these officials really cared, they’d do something about the obscene power rates and gasoline prices, to name just two things that they had been contracted to do. But to reprise CSI:Manila?


I wish I had a hammer – and a couple of high-level heads to hit.

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