“It could be a big story,” journalist Ashley Manabat said, after Philippine Air Force folk at Clark freeport’s main gate caused a mini-traffic to inspect driver’s licenses of inbound motorists. “We’re on red alert,” one soldier told him.
Farther into the freeport, towards the PAF hospital, Ashley noted armed soldiers apparently in a frenetic mode as a van, with doors open to expose more soldiers in agitated mood, neared towards them in a right turn.
Ashley turned left and survived to share with me the unusual military tempo he had witnessed.
600th air base wing spokesman 1st Lt. Bruce Pakingking was not in his office but I was referred to operations chief Col. Ferdinand Panganiban.
“It was just a regular readiness exercise,” Panganiban said, adding that the activity was cleared with the Clark Development Corp. which runs the freeport.
That’s fine. Except that it alarmed Ashley. And if it alarmed veteran newsman such as Ashley, it could panic others of lesser fibre.
You don’t just simulate war in an economic zone, or even in a non-economic neighborhood where high cholesterol and triglyceride, erratic blood pressure and nervous breakdown have become commonplace since American fast food took hold of Filipino diet.
The only way to justify such activity is to tell the public that the motions and commotions are merely exercises designed to train people in emergencies.
The exercise was allegedly coordinated with the CDC, but did that mean the air force officials trust the CDC would thus alert the public outside air force territory that all the activities were not for real?
Streamers or posters could have explained the events, but no such effort was obviously exerted in yesterday’s case.
Of course our soldiers, regardless of which branch of the military they belong to, need support from all Pinoys.
But when the military trespasses into the realm of civilian equanimity unnecessarily, reaction could be negatively hodgepodge: a coup d’etat? A terrorist attack to be foiled? Accident of some magnitude? A visiting VIP whose path has to be cleared and secured?
Panganiban said all PAF units within Clark, and that meant almost the entire air force, participated in yesterday’s “readiness exercise.” The public, however, did not seem ready for it.