M-16s, baseball bats and heavy-handed security at Market Market
MANILA, Philippines - When I take a taxi home to Bonifacio Global City at night, I often tell the driver to leave me at Market Market. It’s a short walk, and I can pick up a bite to eat at any time of night. Usually the most interesting part of this trip is when I buy Skyflakes, but on Saturday night, December 6, I saw something that I usually don’t see.
Walking past the late night outdoor food court, I hear the sounds of a scuffle. It’s not totally surprising, as those who usually congregate there at the midnight hour are drinking. On this night it was a packed crowd, but through the masses I can see a security guard waving a rifle into a crowd. A Philippine Army veteran friend identified the weapon as an M-16, a military standard semi-automatic and automatic weapon.
Living in the crazy times we do, I made a truncated risk assessment, deducing that he probably had some authority as he was wearing a security guard’s outfit. Still I made a mental note about which table I’d retreat behind. Much of the crowd that stood up during the commotion were back in their seats; some were afraid while others were too drunk to read their expression.
Suddenly I felt I was no longer in the friendly environs of the Philippines; this was a scene ripped from the unrest in the American city of Ferguson.
This whole time I’m recording on my phone’s camera. This is an instinct that has become ingrained in me, as the news has become scattered with instances of abuses of power. If something happens where someone’s rights are violated, I want to be there to back them up.
Moments later, the security guard decides to switch to a metal baseball bat, the type used for Little League baseball in America (wooden bats don’t come into use until high school in the States). Now I’m a bit shocked, I didn’t know there were places in the world where baseball bats are used to keep order, so I begin recording again. Somehow, I feel more threatened at this point - perhaps because I’m closer - as he points the bat and tells everyone to sit. My rationale was, this was a clearly upset man, but what if he switched to the bat, which isn’t as lethal as the M16, because he wanted to use it and not have a body on his hands?
It’s hard to find comic relief in a moment like this, but there were some chuckles when the security guard dropped his bat while standing on a table. The reaction seemed to infuriate him more, and he struck a table with the bat, shattering bottles.
At this point, I decide I’ve recorded enough, I’m going home. At the moment I put my phone down, another security guard in a different uniform tries to snatch my phone. I was indignant: on whose authority does this man in uniform try to take private property? I identify myself as a reporter with Rappler.com, and the man answers back “Your reporting is not welcome here,” and makes a move for my pocket. I slap his hand away and remind him once more that this is still a country with a free press, and there are no signs here indicating that say I cannot record.
This security guard also has a baseball bat, and he raises it slightly to try and intimidate me. I don’t budge, figuring the closer I am, the less space he has to swing. After a brief stalemate, he calls over the initial security guard, who has his rifle in hand. The second guard tries to tell him about the video I recorded, but the guard either doesn’t seem to fully understand in the chaos and tells me “Upo!” (I never was sitting though) and I use that as my cue to exit - with my phone in tow.
I must admit, this incident does slightly shake the ease I’ve felt living in the Philippines. It seemed that once an incident happened, it degenerated into anarchy - martial, if you will. This is still my home country, but it’s a bit uneasy knowing these sort of things are happening so close to home. - Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.