EDITORIAL - Defeating the purpose of checkpoints

The Freeman

The Comelec gun ban swung into effect Sunday with the poll body asking the police to be courteous when manning checkpoints. No need to ask. The police have always been courteous when manning checkpoints -- too courteous in fact that one wonders if the purpose of setting up checkpoints does not get lost in a sea of too much courtesy.

The observation stems from the fact that police at checkpoints only check on motorcycle riders and jeepney passengers. Private vehicles and taxis are never stopped at any checkpoint, their occupants never checked, unless of course something particularly suspicious about these vehicles make them virtually scream for attention, begging to be stopped.

Why only motorcycle riders and jeepney passengers are checked at police checkpoints is a big mystery to most people. Of course, people in private vehicles and taxis are not complaining and would prefer things to remain the way they are. But if the purpose of the checkpoints is to crack down on guns and other deadly weapons, as well as drugs and other illegal items, then searches need to be applied on everybody.

To be sure, this concentration on motorcycles and jeepneys is not lost on people who would rather not go through any checkpoint. But since these checkpoints are set up at random and there is no predicating where the next one will be, the surest bet for these people is to be in a private vehicle or a taxi. Only people with no choice but to be on a motorcycle or a jeepney are forced to rely on luck and take chances with checkpoints.

Maybe the police are afraid that checking on each and every vehicle that comes upon a checkpoint will cause traffic. And maybe it does. But so what? A checkpoint is precisely named a checkpoint because it is a place where checks are made. And by that is meant a check on anything and everything. To be selective with the checking is to defeat the essence of checking.

To be sure, a lot of banned or illegal items are already being confiscated at checkpoints even if the focus of the checks is only on motorcycles and jeepneys. And for that the police ought to be congratulated. But a lot more could be achieved if the checks are expanded. Fear of causing traffic should be the least of worries for law enforcers.

Besides, traffic jams resulting from checkpoints cannot last long enough to cause real inconvenience. Checkpoints are essentially random. They do not stay in one place forever. A checkpoint can be lifted in an hour. In other words, no lasting inconvenience is likely to result from them. But to think of traffic and the inconvenience they cause is to deviate from the purpose of a checkpoint. The moment such things become an issue, the checkpoint is gone.


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