Something weird happened again in the Philippines last week. But I'm not referring to the hotel siege staged by renegade soldiers last Thursday in the heart of the country's financial capital--this has become quite ordinary here.
I'm talking about the 12 to 5 morning curfew that was imposed the following day by the national government right after special troops flushed the "five-star rebels" out of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.
For the older folks, the move brought memories of the harsh Martial Law years when henchmen of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos would grab anyone they see on the streets during nighttime.
I was too young then (I'm now 31) to remember the horrors of that era, so it's actually a new experience for me to witness a real government-imposed curfew and not the curfew enforced by our parents when we were still kids.
For the first time, I saw what it looked like deserted streets, closed shops, and people being rounded up. It was surreal; we were like Cinderella scampering to get home before the clock hits 12.
The national police said the imposition of that curfew was needed for follow-up operations to eliminate whatever residue was left of the doomed uprising. But this, in my opinion, was utterly unnecessary.
It was rather foolish for government officials to think that a strategy used in a bygone era would work exactly the same way today. Apart from entailing additional work for policemen, the curfew only extended the inconvenience and distraction created by the siege.
And in this age of globalization where working hours have become relative, government leaders ought to be prudent enough--instead of acting impulsively--in making any move that would destroy or disrupt what the country has painstakingly built in the past few years.
It was the BPO (business process outsourcing) sector, particularly call centers, which bore the brunt of that hasty decision. It caught the industry off-guard during the afternoon it was announced, although it was later clarified that call centers' employees were exempted in the curfew.
A number of call centers put on a brave front and sought to assure the public that it's all business as usual. TeleTech, an American-owned call center operator, chose to advise its agents to stay in the office if their shifts end during curfew hours.
In the Philippines, we always tend to shoot ourselves in the foot. How many times do these things have to happen before we learn our lesson?