If its reality TV you want, it can’t get any real than this. We all know what went down in Quirino Grandstand, Manila, Philippines on the night of 23 August 2010 so I’ll spare you some of the details and fast forward to my observations. So many things went wrong in this hostage crisis. So, so, so many. This incident didn’t deserve such bloody ending. There were so many ways it could’ve ended with less than 9 casualties (8 hostages plus Police Sr. Insp. Mendoza, and that’s excluding people who got hit by stray bullets) but unfortunately, things turned for the worse.
I’m no expert on crisis management and law enforcement, and I’ve no experience on the battlefield, but from an average Juan dela Cruz’s standpoint, there was a better way to resolve this. For one, at around 11 a. m. to 12 p. m. , packed meals were delivered to the bus. During that time, the negotiators had a clear shot at Mendoza because he was the one receiving the food. At such a close range, I believe Mendoza is at a disadvantage. With one hand reaching for the grub, Mendoza would have very small chance to defend himself from two negotiators, had they been armed.
Call me violent, but at this point, the whole world would share my sentiment when I say one dead/heavily injured person is better than nine. Of course I understand that the cops don’t want to be overly aggressive in dealing with their ex-comrade since they weren’t sure if Mendoza was alone or had an accomplice within the hell bound bus. But, if they had shot Mendoza earlier things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand. Aside from the food delivery moment, radio broadcaster Erwin Tulfo noted that there are other instances when Mendoza was clearly visible and could’ve been taken out by snipers.
That, however, did not happen. I still find it hard to comprehend why the cops hesitated to shoot Mendoza. If they didn’t have the heart to take out the ex-policeman, they could’ve shot him with tranquilizer darts to simply knock him down. Questions is, does the PNP have such equipment, or were funds for such weapon squandered somewhere else? Were the police babying their former colleague, or were they holding back out of fear that the Commission on Human Rights could accuse them for creating a second Ivan Padilla?
Another factor to consider is the apprehension of the hostage taker’s brother. If the authorities were committed to the negotiation, they should’ve gone with the idea all the way. Instead, they went against Mendoza’s wishes, and an agitated hostage taker is never a good thing. The media also had a hand in this disaster as well. Sure, they were responsible for informing the masses about the progress of the hostage drama, but they also kept Mendoza updated in the process. A news blackout would’ve helped control this situation, but it’s the cops calling the shots, not the journalists.
And speaking of control, what happened to crowd control? Plenty of people were within the hostage taker’s vantage point so it wasn’t surprising that some onlookers got shot. Why wasn’t the area cordoned off? Of course, we find the glass-smashing members of the Manila Police whose infiltration tactics are being scrutinized by the public. And let’s not forget, the ultimate culprit shouldn’t go unscathed. Dead as he may be, Mendoza started this all. If the Philippines adopted the No-negotiating-with-terrorists policy, would it make hostage situations easier to deal?
Perhaps. Such rule may not prevent related crimes from taking place, but it can discourage criminal minds from pushing through with their plans, especially if they know the government won’t give in to any demands. It also helps if the CHR would go a little easy on our Police Force. The PNP has ample skeletons in its closets and we need the CHR to maintain a check and balance relationship with our law enforcers. Still, if they pay too much attention on the cops, they’ll end up dictating their actions and the police will be like dogs working on a very short leash.
Just don’t get me started with Manila Police though. This organization’s got a lot of explaining to do – from reported tortures to this recent carnage – the space on my blog won’t be enough. This may not be the worst hostage crisis in history but with the involvement of foreigners, this incident has what it takes to call the attention of the international community. And while the nation’s leaders are still looking for ways to solve the MILF, CPP-NPA, Abu Sayyaf, Maguindanao Massacre and media/political killings, you can add this problem to a long line of issues that P-Noy has to resolve.