The widely circulated image of armed men surrounding a vehicle along EDSA over a month ago has reminded all of us of the security risks even ordinary people like us face. The news that policemen were behind that notorious episode, plus the recent conviction of a former politician for kidnapping did not only inspire fear in the hearts of the populace, but also left many feeling hopeless. After all, if we can’t trust those who work for the government, whom then can we trust?
News reports such as the abovementioned plus numerous stories shared on social media about thefts and kidnapping attempts make us all feel like we are living in a place without rules and order. There is a sense that we are on our own and that the job of protecting life and property falls squarely on our shoulders.
As parents, it is our main job to protect our children. This is never truer than it is today, living as we are in a place where people avoid policemen and politicians instead of running to them for help. This means that we have to be extra vigilant about the safety of our family and to take protective measures on our own.
The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), a group founded by anti-kidnapping advocate Ms. Teresita Ang-See and comprised of concerned citizens from various sects, educates the public on how to protect their families from the efforts of criminals. They go to schools to teach parents specific strategies to avoid being kidnap victims.
Here are some ways that we can protect our families and avoid being victims of kidnapping and other related crimes, as shared by the MRPO officers.
1. Never divulge unnecessary information. According to MRPO, 80% of kidnapping cases occur using information gleaned by criminals from unsuspecting members of the victim’s circle. This means that the most important thing that we can do to ensure our family’s safety is to protect the information about ourselves. Knowledge is power, and we do not want to give criminals any power over us.
If you have household helpers, drivers, and office staff, avoid making information about your family known to them. They may know where you work, for example, but keep your position in the company private if possible. If you just bought something from the mall or grocery, cut off the tags and keep the receipts of your purchases so as not to give nosy helpers an inkling of how much you spend on things.
Though they may be trustworthy, you do not know the company that they keep. Drivers and helpers are known to gossip with fellow drivers and helpers while waiting for their employers, oftentimes boasting about their boss’ lifestyle. So, it is also best to advise them to only talk about themselves if they feel the need to talk. Of course, the best precaution is for them to not have too much information to share about you and your family.
2. Be wary of strangers. Aimee*, a mom of two, shares that she always reminds her kids not to talk to strangers, even well-groomed and respectable-looking ones. She cites the incident at her kids’ school wherein a stranger pretended to be a parent and tried to get information from the students.
Aimee orients her kids and nannies about the real dangers of kidnappings and tells them about actual incidents that she has heard about. In addition, it is also best to remind household members to be suspicious of emergency phone calls. Talk about the different ways of handling such calls, and review these with them. Role-play, if necessary.
3. Be connected at all times. MRPO advises parents to make it a rule for drivers and household helpers to never run out of battery and load. This will hopefully ensure that you can reach them and your kids at all times. The mechanics of how to ensure a full cellphone battery and load would be up to you. However, it is a good idea to give a load allowance to your household staff.
Being connected at all times also means establishing a communications protocol with your spouse, kids, and nannies. Tell your yaya to text you when she is about to bring your child to school and then again when they reach the school. And even if you don’t want to be always monitoring each other, you and your spouse should agree to keep abreast of each other’s movements.
4. Be low-key. Aimee emphasizes the importance of leading a low-key lifestyle and avoiding flashy jewelry and clothes to avoid attracting the wrong kind of crowd. How you conduct yourself gives people an idea about your affluence that might tag you as someone with the “capability to pay”. She is also careful about making new friends, preferring to be “paranoid but safe”.
Be careful about social media too. Turn off your phone’s location settings because it will lead determined criminals right to where you are and avoid posting photos that will give people an idea of a luxurious lifestyle. Sometimes, those without access to our account will still be able to see the pictures that we post simply because someone in our circle decides to save and share it.
5. Know your rights. Oftentimes, traffic enforcers, or those pretending to be officers, flag down unsuspecting motorists. Know your rights and educate yourself about what traffic enforcers can and cannot do.
For instance, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) states in its website’s Frequently Asked Questions section that MMDA enforcers “are not allowed to group together while apprehending a motorist” and that they “are not allowed to ask drivers to alight from their vehicles while the apprehension is taking place.” Knowing these and other rules just might save you from being a victim of those who use the power of the uniform to commit a crime.
Kids becoming victims of kidnapping and other heinous crimes is a parent's worst nightmare. As much as we want to trust our government to protect us, we also have a duty to do everything that we can to avoid being victimized.
Being vigilant about the information that we allow to be revealed about us, being wary of strangers, and other safety strategies should help us gain some advantage over those waiting to commit crimes.
To learn more about what you can do to protect your family, contact Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order at 32 Anda corner Cabildo Streets, Intramuros, Manila PH 1002. Call them at +63-2-5276083 and +63-2-5266796, or email them at email@example.com.
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*a pseudonym for a Chinese-Filipino woman who requested anonymity for this article