Parañaque village residents patrol own streets with volunteer night watch

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2020 05:58 AM

Members of BF Northwest's night watch patrol, Photo courtesy of BF Northwest Homeowners' Association

Wearing masks and riding motorcycles in the night, they might have caused alarm in the past. 

But in the time of the novel coronavirus and community quarantine, these men roving the streets of BF Northwest, one of the biggest subdivisions in BF Homes, Parañaque City are their enclave's answer to preventing crime. 

For nearly 2 weeks now, these volunteer residents have made house calls to homeowners in need and even thwarted a break-in during their "night watch patrol". 

They assemble after midnight, divide themselves into pairs or more depending on the number of people on hand, then ride around assigned sectors from 1 to 4 in the morning. 

Some are on motorcycles, others are on bicycles. They communicate via radio, especially when they get a response call. 

It's a job usually undertaken, especially these days, by the police, barangay watchmen, or in the case of subdivisions, hired security guards. 

And indeed, a couple of guards join the nightly watch. 

But Atty. JV Almeda, one of the volunteers and also the governor-at-large of the homeowners' association, explained the residents also had to pitch in because many guards could not work with the metro on lockdown. 

"Ito 'yung may pinakamalaking area at perimeter [sa BF Homes]. So kung iaaasa namin sa guards, medyo kulang na kulang ang manpower ng mga guards namin para ma-cover yung buong enclave," he said. 

(This subdivision has the biggest area and perimeter in BF Homes. If we rely only on the guards for security, their manpower is really not enough to cover the entire enclave.)

FROM DRIBBLING TO ROVING

The night watch patrol began roving on March 22, the second week of the Metro Manila quarantine, with just 4 people. 

The first volunteers came from the homeowners' basketball association. 

With their games suspended as a precaution against COVID-19, team tried to find other ways of helping out.

They were also growing concerned over reports of outsiders trespassing in BF Northwest at night. 

True enough, last week, the night watch team responded to a homeowner's call that men were attempting to break into the house. Both were arrested. 

The response may also be life-and-death, such as calling for an ambulance to attend to a homeowner who needed medical attention. 

Most of the time, though it is just checking houses that reported hearing noises or reminding people, usually foreigners, to observe the curfew. 

Police taking into custody suspects of an attempted burglary in BF Northwest, Photo courtesy of JV Almeda

From 4, the volunteers have grown to 50, enabling the group to schedule people every other night instead of nightly. 

Most of them are young, in their 20s or 30s. But a few older residents have joined the team. 

"Kumukuha kami ng mas maraming volunteers, nang sa gayon hindi ma-burn-out yung mga volunteers namin, so may relyebo," Almeda said. 

(We keep getting more volunteers, so that those who already volunteered will not be burnt out, there's a rotation.)

"'Di natin alam kung hanggang kailan itong krisis, kung kailan mali-lift [ang quarantine], so tuloy-tuloy lang kami sa pagpapatrolya. 

(We don't know until when this crisis will last, when the quarantine will be lifted, so we will continue our patrol.)

The volunteerism has also spurred similar good deeds among the other homeowners. 

Some buy the night watch team coffee and bread to eat after the patrol ends. Others pooled money for flashlights. 

A number of homeowners, meanwhile, decided to stay up at night to conduct their own neighborhood watch from their houses by posting photos of their area on the association's group. 

"Ang pinaka-important talaga ay tulungan natin ang mga kapitbahay natin," Almeda said. 

"Tayong mas nakakaluwag, bigyan natin sila ng kung anong matutulong natin. Sama-sama tayo ngayong krisis."

(The most important thing is for us to help our neighbors. Those of us who have enough to spare should give them what we can. Let us weather this crisis together.)