Notes & Essays

Remember His Name: Jeneven Bandiala

Killed in the line of duty.
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ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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Three people were killed at the horrific attack inside Ateneo De Manila University on Sunday (July 25). Two of the victims were from the province of Basilan: former Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay and her aide Victor George Capistrano. 

Reports from news media, citing official police sources, say it was an assassination and that the mayor was the intended target. The suspect apparently held a grudge against Furigay since at least 2018, according to a Philippine Star report. Two others were hurt: Mayor Furigay’s daughter, Hannah, and an unidentified bystander.

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The third fatality in the shooting was a security guard of the university named Jeneven Bandiala. Not much has been written about him, other than the fact that he was one of the guards stationed near the gate where the attack took place.

More information is expected to surface in the coming days about the murders, particularly about the suspect and Mayor Furigay. But the name of the security guard will no doubt be consigned to be a footnote in the bigger story of the political killing.

Bandiala’s life, however, is worth just as much as those of the other victims, and his name shouldn’t be brushed aside. If anything, his killing should serve as a sobering reminder of just how dangerous it is to be a security officer. 

In the Philippines, the job of security guard is simultaneously one of the hardest and most thankless. Of the estimated 500,000 registered security guards in the country, many put in 10 to 12-hour days, sometimes more, only to be subjected to constant ridicule and disrespect from the people they’re supposed to be protecting. Depending on where they’re stationed—outdoors exposed to the elements and the detritus of human settlements or indoors with air conditioning, if they’re lucky—they’re often standing up throughout their shifts either fighting boredom or unruly visitors, maybe even both. All this for minimum wage, which is barely enough to cover the living expenses of one person, let alone when they’re supporting a family. 

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In a country with a perennial peace and order problem, security guards are frontliners that might as well be invisible. Whether we care to admit it or not, many of us treat them as just a hurdle to overcome as we go about our business. They’re firearm-wielding gatekeepers—sometimes literally—that we need to get past in order to access a person, product, or service. They remind us to write our names in the logbook and check our temperature in the scanner; they hand us our number in line and poke their sticks inside our bags looking for concealed weapons; we surrender our identification cards to them in exchange for that all-important visitor’s ID.

Of course, they’re also the best people to ask for umbrellas, lighters or directions; and the first people we turn to for help when the unthinkable happens.

Just last month, we all saw the video of a mall security guard that was run over by a heartless motorist in Mandaluyong City. During the elections last May, three security guards were killed at a polling station in the town of Buluan in Maguindanao. And in March, a complaint was filed against a provincial board member after he allegedly beat up a security guard who didn’t let him inside a gated subdivision in Parañaque City. 

In the case of the incident in Ateneo, Bandiala was a casualty of the cold-blooded murder of somebody else. 

It’s still unclear what exactly happened in the moments leading to the fatal shooting, and what exactly the circumstances were that led to Bandiala taking a bullet from the gunman. Perhaps he was escorting guests to the graduation venue, or directing traffic to and from the parking lot, or checking identification of guests. Whatever he was doing, it’s clear that he was just doing his job.

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The risk of actually giving up their lives in the course of performing their duties—this is what we fail to realize about security guards each time we interact with them. We see them as a nuisance or annoying sentries that we almost immediately forget as soon as we’re through, but their job description is to defend the institution where they’re posted from a variety of threats—sometimes with their lives, as we’ve come to be reminded. 

Bandiala is only the latest security guard to give up his life in the line of duty, and he likely won’t be the last. We hope the agency he worked for, and the institution he was guarding, would see it fit to honor his life by providing for the members of his family that he leaves behind. 

As for the rest of us, we can pay our respects to the man by showing a bit more respect to other members of his profession. It’s the absolute least we can do.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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