What's It Like to Commute to Work in a Bullet-Proof Vehicle?
Have you ever been driven to and from work on a bullet-proof vehicle? You’d think the privilege is only for VIPs but for several days in 2013, officers and staff of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s office in Zamboanga City in Mindanao commuted between home and the office on an armored vehicle. However, rather than feel privileged, they thought the experience was an ordeal not to be repeated again.
It was September 2013 and Zamboanga City was in the middle of fierce fighting between a rogue faction of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The MNLF faction tried to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik at the Zamboanga City Hall itself and occupied parts of the city after taking scores of civilians hostage.
Throughout the fighting, which displaced 100,000 people, killed several civilians and led to the closure of the Zamboanga International Airport, the BSP’s Zamboanga office continued to function. Most of the office’s 70 personnel, from top management to maintenance staff, continued to work, both remotely or on-site. Some of the officers and staff who needed to be at the office were driven to work on armored vehicles. After arriving, they have to get off the vehicles quickly and run to the office as fast as they can to avoid getting hurt or killed by bullets or shrapnel from exploding bombs. The bullet holes on the walls of the BSP facility and the dents caused by mortal shells hitting its roof are signs of how close the clashes were to the office. Despite the risks, the officers and staff of BSP Zamboanga continued to work to service the city’s currency requirements.
For their dedication, the BSP’s Zamboanga branch as a group was honored with a Gantimpala Agad Award the following year.
Two of BSP Zamboanga’s staff were given individual awards. Darius Everette F. Ramillano was almost taken hostage by the MNLF rebel forces but he managed to escape. Notwithstanding the risks, he immediately reported for duty and stayed at work during the entire episode. He was honored for exemplifying the tenacity and dedication of the entire BSP Zamboanga office during the crisis.
Edison D. Bonifacio, a security guard, played a critical role in ensuring the safety of the BSP’s Zamboanga office. He was the first person to notify the head of security of the office about the rebel attack and remained on duty throughout the siege. During the day, he drove and escorted the security chief in buying supplies such as food and medicines for the security personnel. At night, he volunteered as a perimeter guard to watch out for intruders and attackers. He was awarded for going above and beyond the call of duty to be of help to his colleagues.
The siege, which began on September 9, was declared by the government to have ended on September 28 though skirmishes in some parts of Zamboanga city were still going on.
This is an excerpt from the book Cool Minds, Brave Hearts: The People of the Philippine Central Bank, written by Roel Landingin and published by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The book won a National Book Award for Best Book on Professions by the National Book Development Board and the Manila Critics Circle earlier this year. We are reprinting this excerpt with the permission of the BSP.