There is a lot of news that have to do with security guards these days. The past weeks saw several stories about security guards facing danger. Pre-positioned robbers inside a shopping mall in Cebu City shot security guards of a cash transfer pointblank. Recently, a quick-acting security guard tried to stop a scorned and suicidal woman from killing herself after she shot dead her husband in a big mall in Quezon City. The heroic act cost the guard his life. Another security guard subdued the woman, who is now detained by city police. Questions now emerge as to the adequacy and efficiency of security measures inside malls as media and everyone else became instant critics and security experts.

There was also a report of a 52- year-old security guard winning nearly PhP30 millions worth of lotto jackpot from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). I guess he will be hiring his own security guards to protect his newfound fortune. I am sure he is aware that his fellow security guards were involved in an attempted robbery in the security agency they worked for in Silang, Cavite. The four armed men were trying to steal the payroll money but escaped when they failed to find cash inside their agency’s office.

Disputing landowners take over properties by using private security guards. Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson sent security guards to occupy a still contested property in Pasig. Known land grabber Wilfredo Torres, on the other hand, employed more than 100 policemen and security guards to try to seize control of a construction site and a private school on Visayas Avenue in Quezon City. This is reminiscent of the scuffle at Stradcom between hundreds of security guards from the company and its shareholders. Squabbles between directors of condominium and village associations or owners are typical examples of agencies and guards pitted against each other.

Of all the stories that concern security guards however, none is more compelling than the security guard who got mauled by a pompous congressman. Security guard Ricardo Bonayog was inspecting vehicles in the parking lot of the UP-Ayala Technohub in Quezon City. Nothing extraordinary until a Porsche car came up to park.

When the driver rolled down the window, Bonayog was said to have uttered “pucha otso,” when actually he was only reading the make of the car which was “Porsche and “otso” or eight being the plate number in front of the car. (For those who don’t know, ‘pucha’ is an expletive in Filipino.) The driver said the security guard followed him and asked whether “8” is a government plate and he replied that it was a protocol plate for congressional representatives. The driver, who apparently sensed some disbelief, asked Bonayag what his problem was.  At this juncture, the driver claimed the security guard looked like he was drawing his gun. He said he tried to stop him and hit him with a bunch of papers he was holding. The driver turned out to be Lanao Del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman, who, when several television networks sought him for an interview, initially denied the incident. The congressman said he was somewhere else at the time. Afterwards, when it was clear he could not deny it anymore, he eventually gave the above version. I am sure someone told him about the presence of CCTV cameras and other witnesses.

Bonayog, on the other hand, said it was Pangandaman who punched him twice on his left ear after refusing to let his Porsche Carrera be inspected. Bonayog is not in the position to fabricate stories. What will he gain from it? He was simply doing his job. The latest word from Bonayog is that he will not press charges against Pangandaman being a “nobody” against a congressman from Mindanao whose family is a political dynasty. This is a shame. Politicians in our country get away with many things, trampling on the rights of small people like Bonayog.

In retrospect, the incident calls on all to look at the plight of security guards in the country. Being a security guard is one of the most dangerous professions in the country, probably next to the military and police.  There are at least 430,000 security guards belonging to 4,300 security agencies, while there are only a little less than 220,000 military and police personnel. In average, we have a security guard on duty for each building in the country.

I know that the Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Services (SOSIA), the PNP office that oversees the organization, operation and business activities of security agencies has been addressing the issue on posting guards on contested properties. SOSIA have been working with PADPAO or the Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agency Operators on several projects to upgrade the services, standards and quality of guards.  There are two party-list groups in Congress supposedly representing the guards as a marginalized sector of the society. What now from them?

However, the spate of incidents involving guards should be seriously investigated. There are many dimensions to each incident. Guards are trained, supposedly. Guards are to be trusted, supposedly. Guards are to be paid well, supposedly. Guards simply follow procedures formulated by security professionals, supposedly.

Our security guards deserve respect. Security guards are the first and the last persons we see when we enter villages, condominiums, buildings, malls, bus terminals, and offices. They are the gatekeepers. They are the usual scapegoats for security lapses. They are quickly blamed by police and general public for crimes committed in private places. Ironically, the private security industry thrives in poor public security environment. The private enterprises rely on private security entities because of deteriorating trust on public security forces.

It is imperative for everyone to show respect to the guards, not because they carry guns, but because they help make us work and sleep securely.

To advance the advocacy to change the perception on guards, SecurityMatters provides different perspectives to security and security guards as it dedicates the Guard! section to our guards, agencies and related services starting with Volume 1.6 that are already in National Bookstore and Filbars branches nationwide.

What are your thoughts on the plight of security guards? Are they what their agencies mold them to be?