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We are never truly safe

Why does it always seem that just when things are starting to look bright or at least starting to feel normal again, something happens to remind us that there is still a lot of bad things in the world and that we may not be as safe or secure as we think we are, regardless of which part of the city we currently find ourselves.

I remember a time when crime, at least the bulk of it, was concentrated in areas that were deemed seedy or dangerous. A lot of people were wary of going to these places because so many bad things happened there like kidnappings, carnappings, hold-ups, and even murder. Most people felt that if they could at least avoid these certain dangerous areas than they should be safe, or at the very least safer.

That is no longer the case these days though. Crime is happening everywhere, anywhere, and at any time and it’s no longer really possible to say you are truly safe. It’s no longer a matter of time of day or location. You may be the unfortunate victim of a tragic crime no matter where you are. I was just reading about the tragic case of Kristelle Davantes, or “Kae” as family and friends knew her, the senior account manager of advertising agency McCann Worldgroup Philippines, Inc.

It’s every parent and every friend’s worst nightmare realized. Missing since last Friday, Kae was last seen in Fort Bonifacio driving in her silver Toyota Altis, which is still currently missing. She had supposedly just separated from friends after a night out and was on her way home when she went missing. Tragically, her body was found Saturday morning at Tibagan Bridge in Cavite with multiple stab wounds and her hands tied with a seatbelt.

The news came as a shock to everyone and was another brutal reminder that there is crime everywhere and it always pays to be over vigilant. In Devantes’ case there are so many unanswered questions – was she the actual victim or was it a carnapping gone wrong? Where is the car now? Who is responsible? I think that is the question that is most desperate for an answer. What’s more, the fact that so many people know her – she went to Assumption and was the batchmate of my daughter’s friend – makes it even more frightening. It reminds you that nowhere, and no one is truly safe.

The murder has left a rather eerie feeling over everyone, most especially those that live and work in Fort Bonifacio, an area that has been touted as upscale and safe. This is not however, necessarily true. There have been other cases of missing people – kids especially – that also happened in Fort Bonifacio. They say this is because of all the construction sites and unguarded areas in the vicinity that make it easy to hide a person or commit a crime far from prying eyes and to easily make an escape when you’re through.

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As of now, there are no leads as to the culprits behind the senseless and tragic killing of Davantes, and I am among thousands of those who hope that the police can find those responsible and make them pay for their heinous crime. However, I am also pragmatic and must express my concern over this actually happening. As I mentioned in a previous column, there is a big problem with the justice system here in that so many criminals get away, or even if they are caught, are never truly made to pay for what they have done.

The harsh reality is that there are so many unsolved crimes in the country that I fear it often emboldens would-be criminals to commit crimes because they are confident that they will not be caught. After all, it’s the punishment that would scare someone away from committing a crime right? If there is no punishment, criminals will just continue to get more and more confident that they can get away with doing whatever they want.

My daughter had also just recently brought up the dreadful story about the film critic and his girlfriend who were brutally murdered in their own home a few years back and have yet to see justice served. The worst part is that they already have a suspect (their new female helper and her accomplices) but have still not brought the guilty parties to justice.

Knowing this, how are we supposed to feel safe? This is especially true at this time of year. As the holidays approach, more and more people begin to feel truly desperate and will resort to whatever it takes to get money. A little over five years ago, my daughter had the misfortune of getting robbed twice in November, one day after the other. The night before she had gone out with friends and had her evening bag stolen off their table at a restaurant at the Fort Strip and then the next day, while at a gas station on Makati Avenue she had her back turned and someone ran up from behind, knocked her down, and grabbed her purse. So very unfortunate to have it happen twice in the span of two days, but it just reminded her to always be vigilant and never let her guard down.

These days, she is always more careful. She doesn’t like having people behind her and she tries to always keep her back to the wall. What’s more, we always remind her to keep telling everyone where she is and where she is going especially if she will be out late at night. We try to remind her not to walk through the parking lot alone, or if she has to, to remain alert and not be texting or checking her phone. And to always have her car keys at the ready and, as much as possible, to be sure to jump into the car, start it, and drive off as quickly as possible.

These are just standard safety precautions we all need to remember including bringing pepper spray or a weapon, but even doing all of this, it does not ensure that we won’t fall victim to those who would do us harm. I always believe though, that we should not make it easy for them. Many self-defense books and teachers say that these criminals tend to target those they think would be easy targets so never let yourself become an easy target. Vary your routine if you have to, maintain a buddy system with friends, and be careful with your privacy and what you reveal to strangers (especially on the Internet).

My heart and prayers go out to the family of Kae Devantes. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and loss they are feeling now. I hope and fervently pray that those who are responsible for her untimely death are found and made to pay for their crime.


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