Take a look at the picture below. What do you see? Security doing their job? High Tech bomb detection equipment being put to good use? Wrong. You see an illusion of security in action, and here’s the proof.
Security guards are an ever present sight in Metro Manila, and especially so in the CBD of Makati, where men in shiny uniforms inspect vehicles, control office tower entrances, and wave beeping wands up and down busy business people on their way to do whatever it is busy business people do. Most of us accept security as something we need in a country with an active terrorist threat and a brutal rich-poor divide, where the few who have a lot are scared of the many who have little.
At least where the threat from terrorism is concerned, security certainly has a valid role to play and it is fair to assume that only proven and effective technology and tools are being used to keep people at the heart of the country’s most important central business district safe. An observation I made in Makati recently suggests otherwise, though.
Let’s get back to the above picture. Have a close look at the device in the hand of the guard. Looks like some sort of detector, right? Well, it is. A bomb detector to be precise, and from what I can tell it looks like a model called the “GT200”. Every time a car enters the building, he points it at the vehicle and waits for it to indicate, but I would be very surprised if this device every detected anything, as it’s fake. How do I know that? Simple: it was all over the news and it takes just a quick google to tell you that this is a pointless piece of plastic with a metal rod sticking out of it, sold by an unscrupulous businessman who was recently sent to prison for flogging these things to security companies and armed forces around the world. That’s right, there are people so malicious, they invent and sell fake bomb detectors! The BBC story about it is here.
To get one thing straight: I am in no way whatsoever blaming the guard for this one. These devices were sold with the promise of detecting all sorts of explosives and many private companies, and even governments, were taken in by the clever fraudsters selling them. This was a sophisticated scam and whoever bought them for this building in Makati most likely did so in good faith, and the guards probably genuinely believe it’s working. The problem is that it isn’t and I am so sure that this is a fake, I will happily give you a crate of Bavarian beer if you prove me wrong. That’s a crate of liquid gold up for grabs! I am more than certain this ‘detector’ couldn’t detect a fart at Sunday mass, much less any kind of real explosive threat.
While some might find it funny that a worthless piece of plastic is being pointed at cars there, this affair does of course have a more serious side to it: the building security management thinks they have effective explosives detection in place, when in reality they haven’t, leaving the guards and occupants of the building at heightened risk.
It also opens up a few pretty big questions about security around Metro Manila in general: How much of all this security circus is really effective or needed? Is it all just for show? Is it really required, or just a massive job creation scheme, and an illusion to make us all worry less? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!