A Week After the Philippines Hostage Drama…
One week ago, millions of eyes around the world witnessed an almost 11-hour hostage drama that took place at the Qurino Grandstand, Manila, Philippines last August 23 – the end of which brought despair and anger to many people. For one, we need not say how disappointed and mad the Hong Kong government and citizens were and still are on what happened to their fellowmen on Philippine soil. Words of condemnation (and insults) were thrown at the Philippine police team and government for their lack of training, knowledge on emergency situations, and cooperation which led to the deaths of 8 Hongkong tourists and a couple of other incurred injuries.
The said hostage taking happened last Monday at around 10:15 in the morning when dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza took hold of a tourist bus which had around 25 passengers – most of which were Hong Kong tourists who were scheduled to return to their home country that same night. As the day wore on, negotiations took place, and Mendoza released 10 passengers before night drew in. But, after his brother, SPO4 Gregorio Mendoza, was forcefully arrested by the police at around 6 in the evening, the hostage taker lost his cool and started firing – an action which we would all probably agree in calling stupid. As the 11th hour came nearer, a sniper fired and killed Mendoza, which signaled the end of the hostage-taking crisis. It was truly a tragic event, and I would like to give my condolences to the families of the victims for whatever their relatives have gone through in the hands of a former police officer gone wild and under the mishandling of the situation of the Philippine government.
However, even though now that the hostage-taking is over, the Philippines is not yet done in dealing with what happened. Hong Kong is furious over the incident, tourists are scared to visit the country, Filipinos are dealing with shame and with fear of losing their jobs in Hong Kong, and an air of insult and blaming fills the country’s atmosphere. But, who is really to blame? Who had faults? What went wrong? Where does the aftermath take Philippines and Hong Kong? And how are the reactions after the incident? Let’s go through some of these points . Along the way, I’d be providing my own insights, so bear with me.
- First of all, it’s true that the number one person who should take the blame is, of course, Rolando Mendoza since he started all this. That’s a given, and I’m not going to dwell on that any longer.
- Who comes after him in the fault list is, yes, the police team, the SWAT, and all those police forces because they didn’t handle the situation correctly. Like, not at all. Seriously, if you’ve watched the live coverage of the hostage-taking crisis, you’re going to at least shake your head and say what the hell. What is up with those ropes and sledgehammers? You know, it’s like infuriating and hilariously embarrassing at the same time! Like, that’s how you plan to save the hostages? Not even good luck is going to side with you! And yes, I think we all know how that story came to an end.
- On one hand, I wanted to laugh and be angry at how unorganized and dim-witted (pardon me for the term) the police’s strategies were, but on another hand, I felt sorry for them because they were being criticized harshly due to their use of inappropriate tools during the situation which is due to the fact that they don’t have any other better resources to utilize. We see the face of poverty and corruption at one of its worst that day, especially when the police used a human ladder to get to the window level. I mean, they can’t even afford a ladder? Is the government not looking after their operation resources? Or maybe, the supposedly funds all just went to the corrupt officials’ pockets, and now the whole Philippines is suffering because of their greediness. You see, some of the policemen had to charge through the painful tear gas without any masks on because they don’t have the money to buy. Where are all the funds now? The situation of corruption in the country is really getting graver and graver, and if this doesn’t get resolved in time, if every official is going to be corrupt and greedy, then every Filipino citizen might as well say goodbye to a bright future in the Philippines.
- Feeling pitiful aside, I think we all agree that the situation was aggravated because of one careless and extremely wrong move done by the police – forcefully arresting the hostage-taker’s brother. Mendoza wouldn’t have probably gone wild and attacked the passengers if that hadn’t been done. Didn’t anyone tell the person who instructed the arrest that that is a wrong and stupid move? Here we see that there wasn’t a cooperation between the national and local government. I mean, if there was, someone of higher authority and probably of higher thinking capacity would have realized that that wasn’t the smartest decision and would have called that operation off, but no. No one did.
- So, where was the national government’s involvement during the whole time that the incident was going on? I don’t know because I didn’t feel their presence. And where was President Noynoy when the hostage-taking was taking place? Again, I don’t know because he didn’t show his face during the 11-hour incident. According to him, he was in a meeting with the police. Well… it took you 10 hours to discuss the situation, and it still ended in tragedy? What did you talk about? Your wardrobe for the press conference? It was just disappointing that he wasn’t able to show strong leadership and control of the situation and of his subjects that the whole hostage-taking matter has to end in a very ugly way. But, the main question is, did he even extend his efforts in working out the situation? Or was he simply assuming that the local government and the police can work it out on their own?
- At the end of it all, all the Philippine president offered us was a speech which was rather disappointing again because the content was nothing more than a summary of the incident and how he instructed some of his men to take care of the situation, said in a very casual and general manner. I don’t know what else I want to hear from him, but it sure is more than what he said.
- A day after what is a sad story, President Noynoy declared a national day of mourning which, in my opinion, is pointless. I understand that this is a move to show the world, Hong Kong, and the victims’ families that the Philippines is not acting apathetic to what happened, that it shares in the grief of the people involved, but was this really necessary? To some it may be, but to me, it’s not. Whether or not the Philippines declares a public statement of showing grief and condolence, I think Hong Kong and the world can feel how sorry this country is for whatever happened (Facebook and Twitter statuses are probably one of the signs). There is no need for a public declaration of a national grievance. If this was done as part of a political and moral thing, then be my guest. But, if this was some cover-up for the screw-up by the government, then stop being a hypocrite. You can’t change the fact that the way you, the Philippine government, acted lousy on the battlefield that day and night. There is no make-up. You can’t tell those who died and those who were involved, “hey, sorry, we screwed up, so here’s a national day of mourning as a consolation”. No. You screwed up, and that’s all there is.
- The weakness of the Philippine government aside, another thing that we saw through the incident was the double-edgedness of the media – that at one point, it was informing us of what’s going on, but then the hostage-taker was also aware of each and every movement that’s going on outside that bus. The world is watching; he is part of that world. It’s like the police are crouching, but he knows exactly where they are. The reports were even detailed that it became advantageous for Mendoza, like the attack was sort of one-sided already. And, I think the biggest mistake of the media was covering the part where Mendoza’s brother was captured. We all know he didn’t take that very well. We can’t put the blame on the media entirely because the government should’ve ordered a news blackout, given that this is a very sensitive situation. But, on the part of the media, I think they should’ve probably synthesized carefully what they’re supposed to show and which ones not to. Not because something’s profitable, you immediately give the green light without thinking what consequences that may bring. And that goes to all the networks who flocked over to Quirino Grandstand and covered the incident.
At the end of everything, of this whole incident, I guess it’s not about who should take all the blame; it’s not about cursing the Philippine government; it’s not about continuing being mad and probably being unreasonable at some points; it’s not about the Philippine government disregarding this matter. I guess this is about learning. For the media, it’s about understanding that there are some cases that are sensitive and not because it’s going to raise your ratings means you have to cover that even if it means that the situation can worsen.
For the Philippine government, there is much that it should get and learn from what happened – that it’s about time that the police get real, proper, and professional training, that they can’t keep on blaming each other for the outcome of the incident, that there should be cooperation and communication between the local and national government, that government officials should stop being corrupt if we want to be respected, and most importantly, that its system should improve. That last point, if done, is enough a consolation to all the shame that Filipinos are facing globally right now and probably, those eight people who died will say that they did not die in vain because their deaths caused a significant change in a rotten system.
Hong Kong is still mad, Filipinos in Hong Kong are protesting against the Philippine government, Filipinos are angry and embarrassed, the Philippine government was proven to be rotten, Hong Kong tourists are banned from visiting the Philippines, ties between the two countries are shaken – all of this will come to pass soon, but it’s about the fact that it’s going to pass, but it’s about the Philippine government realizing where it went wrong and taking action to make improvements on its system and about Hong Kong learning how to let go in due time.