Yesterday morning, several armed men stopped and robbed two delivery trucks loaded with a variety of consumer goods in Barangay Ganayon just less than four kilometers north of Lianga. According to preliminary reports, the highwaymen made off with at least P30,000 and several cellular phones taken from the truck drivers and delivery men.
Highway robberies in the Lianga area are not exactly commonplace, so when they do happen they are front page news and do cause a lot of anxiety especially for local businesses and travelers who have become used to and largely dependent on the safe and unhampered access to transportation on the local roads and highways.
I have lived continuously in this town for over a decade now and have traveled regularly and extensively both on private vehicles and public transport throughout the Lianga area. In most cases I have done all that with relative peace of mind and with little fear of being accosted by nefarious criminals with armed robbery in mind. In the past, one might fear more the possibility of being caught suddenly in the middle of a violent encounter between government soldiers and communist insurgents than becoming a victim of a highway holdup. But that was only during the heyday of the Maoist insurgency more than a decade ago and certainly no major cause of concern today.
Occasionally, like a couple of years ago, a spate of highway robberies did occur not only in Lianga but in some of the other nearby towns like San Agustin which is only 26 or so kilometers farther north. The culprits were usually local criminals who have ran out of more safer and lucrative means of raising money and have turned to armed robbery in desperation. In some cases, more experienced criminal gangs from the cities, hiding from police pursuit in the countryside, have engaged occasionally in a highway heist or two but such incidents are more the exception than the general rule.
Nowadays, one can usually travel to and from Lianga in relative safety. In fact, there is greater danger of a vehicular or traffic accident happening than the possibility of being robbed in broad daylight. One can, of course, be victimized by pickpockets while riding the buses or jeepneys but then that is a different story altogether.
The fact is, the chances of a traveler in the Lianga area of becoming unfortunately involved in a highway holdup or robbery incident is considerably less than that of one traveling on the crowded and supposedly "safer" streets and byways of Metro Manila. That is why the occasional highway holdup and armed robbery is a major source of concern to local residents.
In Manila. highway robberies and stickups may be a dime a dozen but in Lianga, the incident at Ganayon can only be taken either as a spur of the moment, random act of desperate criminality or the portent of more turbulent, evil times ahead. The residents here can only hope that it is more of the former rather than the latter.
Knock on wood.