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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Manila Hostage Crisis: Another Embarrassment

"Whoever had jumped on the gun should be held accountable and be brought to justice. That's the only way to appease an angry public."

They did it again, no annotations necessary! The whole world did not blink a bit to the well-choreographed spectacle of hardcore performance art by the Manila police.  All news media  are in feasting mode at  the show of incompetence and sloppiness carried out by the famous Manila's 'finest'. It is very unfortunate that this display of systemic trembling, unstable and panicky approach by the hostage negotiators and SWAT team is being beamed worldwide for the world to commentate. The global community can be heard lamenting in anger and there is no dearth of vile criticisms from all corners of the way the Manila police had handled the hostage crisis. With all probabilities, the rage will not die down anytime soon. Words at times are superfluous to describe  the world's disgust at the entire event.

News media confirmed that 8 of 15 hostages on the hijacked tourist bus died from gunshot wounds when the hostage-taker sprayed bullets on them. The hostage-taker was also taken down by a sniper. The earlier arrest of the hostage-taker's brother, himself a police officer,  watched by him on the bus monitor could have triggered the assailant to put an end to the spectacle, the bloody way. Under other circumstances, the hostages would be dead. That is the most common fear associated with any hostage crisis in the Philippines.

Rolando Mendoza, the hostage taker was a decorated police officer.  He was a recipient of various awards and recognition during his stint with the Philippine National Police. He got dismissed from service for  extortion complaints against him. And the Ombudsman had ruled that apart from his dismissal, his benefits also be forfeited. Mr. Mendoza was demanding that he be reinstated to his post. It was reported that he had already appealed before the Ombudsman, claiming he was innocent but the Ombudsman according to him just sat down on his case. The man was utterly desperate and depressed.  He was seeking out justice.

It is very unfortunate that the hostage-taking ended in an unspeakable tragedy. What has happened to crisis management exercise? In every hostage situation, the lives of hostages are paramount. But instead of calmly negotiating with the hostage-taker with his demands (albeit in this case attainable), the wealth of wisdom from the dodo suddenly overwhelmed them. What the hell they were thinking when they arrested his brother and dragged him onto the street amid the screams and pleadings of the family members? Would the arrest prove crucial and helpful  to the release of the hostages? Were they clueless that the hostage-taker had his eyes glued on the tv monitor inside the bus and witnessed the supposed 'atrocities' to his loved ones? Was this not a deja vu to what had happened to Ted Failon a year before? Is this level of ineptitude endemic to the Philippine police? A lot of questions hang over our heads.  Had the police used their brains properly, there would have not been innocent lives lost and a monumental embarrassment to the Filipino nation at large could have been avoided.

But this is something else. Watching  live footage on television became an agonizing one. There are ideas our minds can hardly bear to tread,  but my fears that a botched rescue situation is in the offing was quite strong, given the history. And they did not fail. They lived up to their promise and their reputation. The style primitive. The approach shaky. The execution novice and ill-rehearsed. As the world watched in horror, the display of sheer incompetence by the Manila police had sealed the belief that we are not only a nation rife with corruption but also a nation of incompetent and mentally-challenged people. The situation was rather calm and manageable, until the ill-advised arrest of the hostage-taker's brother, that could have triggered the killings. Whoever had jumped on the gun should be held accountable and be brought to justice. That's the only way to appease the angry public. In any case, the Philippines has again grabbed the spotlight as another recognition looms - the country with the weakest and  most incompetent law enforcers.

Immediately after the tragedy, the Hongkong government issued an OTA (outbound travel alert) to its residents against visiting the Philippines. Hongkong residents who were in the country were also advised to go back to their country without delay. In a press conference, a visibly teary-eyed Hongkong leader Mr. Donald Tsang was overwhelmed with rage and disappointment at the way the hostage crisis was mishandled. He further demanded explanation from the president of the Philippines. Many fear that the tragedy could provide a rationale for a backlash against our compatriots working in Hongkong and in the mainland.  Tourism is also expected to suffer as Chinese tourists contribute a big chunk of arrivals every single year.

Dubious reputation, architects of torture, summary killings of suspected criminals, corruption within the ranks, what else can they offer from the bag? I am not in a frenzy to find fault with the police, but the misdeeds of some are naturally appended to the whole institution in general. I'm not saying that they be blamed for the insanity of one man who took matters his way, but for God's sake they should have studied the crisis calmly and not acted like idiots. The sledgehammering alone could speak volumes that provided a highlight to the loathing eye of world spectators. The entire rescue approach  done in a pathetic fashion. Shame on them!

Of loving the lovable and loathing the loathsome, this is the norm of man. We hasten to praise when it is praiseworthy and we condemn the abhorrent without delay. When we accept, however, grudgingly, that it is wise not to criticize, then we open the gates to all justification of condonation and false patriotism. As a people, we don't stop to learn to adapt to the good and admire the beautiful. The process never ceases and the pitfalls abound. If  ultimately the world sees us otherwise, then it is a sign that lessons were learned. It's no time to panic yet, it is still  up to them and our leaders to commit to changes and give our law enforcement  a real pinch in the ear.


Pepe Cabrera said...

Deepest condolence not just to the family of the victims but to us all Filipinos. Pinagpi-fiestahan na tayo sa buong mundo dahil sa ating...ewan ko! Pati FB friend ko sa Venezuela at Chile alam na. Bumaba na naman ang level ng aking 'Pinoy Pride'. Dapat yatang pag tamblingin na si Pacquiao, palunukin ng plancha si Charice at ibigay na ang corona kay na si Venus Raj ngayon para matangal ang atencion sa hostage crisis na yan.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard about the latest news about this case? There is a possible angle where the man was aggrivated not only by the fact that the police put his brother into custody but that when the negotiations were happening someone in the office of the ombudsman asked for a bride. if this is proven to be true not only would it explain why the negotiations fell apart but it would also be something the president would need to crack down.

I am sorry about what happened. But I am also angry because of the simple-mindedness of some people and the fact that they made a spectacle of all of it. T_T I am sure you have seen the pictures online of people turning the crime scene into a tourist spot. It's awful.

NFB said...

The behavior of our kabayans who excitedly posed for pictures against the backdrop of the doomed bus really made the HK nationals even fuming mad. And that's very insensitive of them. I too felt very small as a Filipino. We are being branded as a nation of corrupt and incompetent people because of our own doings.

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