Cell site shutdown
Barring any last-minute tragedy, there may be some justification for last week’s Metro Cebu–wide enforcement of the “zero signal” shutdown of cell sites to ensure the safety of both spectator and contingent during the Sinulog celebration.
At first, it was reported that the shutdown will affect only the parade and procession routes for the event, but both Globe and Smart announced that the shutdown will be Metro wide, drawing mixed reactions from Cebu’s residents and visitors who took part in the annual observance.
The shutdown was questioned by the opposition Team Rama contingent who wondered why it had to be done when past Sinulog celebrations required no such security measure.
But then, with last month’s bombing at a fiesta celebration in Hilongos, Leyte, and the knowledge that terrorists can remotely activate a bomb through cell phone, the necessity of shutting down some cell sites had become apparent.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña issued the call for the shutdown; but it was the PNP, through its previous experience securing the Black Nazarene observance in Manila, that called on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to require the telecom firms to shut down their cell sites.
The shutdown wasn’t total or didn’t last the whole day since it was scheduled during the time when the major events were held. But knowing the terrorists, they can time the activation of their explosives once the signal block is lifted.
Which begs the question; how and when should the shutdown of cell sites be done by these telecom firms whether it be during major events or some situation that would justify its implementation in light of the terror threats?
The government cannot afford to shut down these cell sites unless they declare martial law or maybe a state of emergency, which would be quite extreme and would deprive the public of what had been their usual mode of communication.
And with no evidence of invasion nor insurgency in Cebu or any part of the country, there is no grounds nor justification for the government to issue such declaration.
Again, we hope this signal blackout or cell site shutdown would not be a regular occurrence during major events in order not to inconvenience the public, or if it is unavoidable, that the blackouts be scheduled in intervals and the public informed on when these are lifted on real-time basis.
Disabling the cell sites doesn’t guarantee that the terrorists cannot inflict violence in some other way. It would also mean that the terrorists have succeeded in paralyzing the public through fear and intimidation.
While one recognizes the need for government to defang and disable these terrorists from inflicting mayhem and violence, it should not be done at the expense of inconveniencing or depriving Filipinos their right and access to communication.
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