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San Juan Gossip Mills Outlet

A veritable fanatic of the Internet. His avocation is teaching while his main vocation is practicing the much maligned law profession. Currently teaching Constitutional Law at the FEU Institute of Law and a guest lecturer at the De La Salle University teaching "Freedom and Regulation in Cyberspace" in the Graduate Program of the Department of Communication. He is married to his beautiful Ateneo law school classmate and is blessed with a daughter and a son.

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Location: San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Frisking & Bag Searches in the US

Read an article about New Yorkers willing to have their bags searched while riding public transportation. This was in the light of the London subway bombing. The article also mentioned that civil liberties groups protested the searches as it may lead to racial, ethnic, or religious profiling. Well, from our Filipino perspective, frisking and body searches are no longer newsworthy.

I am a perennial victim of racial and ethnic profiling in U.S. airports. Four months after 9/11, I went to the States to visit my younger sister who was suddenly taken ill. While I was lining up in Detroit International to take my connecting flight to Florida, I was asked out of the line and frisked by airport personnel. In another instance, after I got my boarding pass on the way to San Francisco, I was again called out of the line and frisked. My wife attributed this to the fact that my bushy eyebrows and cropped hair made me looked like a Middle Eastern guy and that Americans are poor judges of ethnic origins. Since 9/11, I have always been frisked in US airports except in San Francisco International Airport where most of the airport personnel are Filipinos and who will definitely not mistake me for an Arab.

And about bag searches, Americans are quite squeamish with checking other people’s bags. In the many theme parks in Orlando, Florida, you have these senior citizens doing part time jobs as security personnel in the entrance gates and you get the feeling that “I hate to do this but this is my job”. But of course, being employed in the happiest place on earth, they are required to be friendly.

Unlike Americans, we take to frisking, bag searches and car searches like fish to water. I have grown accustomed to security measures which have become the norm in malls such that when I am not frisked or searched, I asked the security personnel what’s wrong.

There are certain trade-offs that I am prepared to do, if only to ensure our safety. Even our civil liberty groups have not protested these intrusions to privacy unlike their American counterparts who are so sensitive about privacy. 9/11 and the London bombing should have opened their eyes that not all constitutional rights are created equal. Some rights like privacy in public places may be diminished for the meantime as long as the danger is clear and present and can be proven. And if Americans will not allow a temporary diminution of these rights, they have only themselves to blame if another 9/11 occurs on their soil.

Meanwhile, the next time I leave for the States, I will ask my wife to accompany me to a beauty salon to have my eyebrows threaded.

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