Philippine Society. Politics. Rants. Critiques.

Manila Hostage Crisis: MPD Needs to Play Counter Strike

| Friday, August 27, 2010

Almost a week has passed since the Manila Hostage Tragedy. This may be quite long overdue but still I had to share my views on this one. With the Philippines being on the international press once again, I should never miss this featuring this one on my blog.

As we all know, the handling of the siege was a failure; there are two things I’ve learned. First, not all Chinese knows kung fu because if they do, they should’ve kicked Mendoza’s guts out. Second, I realized that both the PNP and SWAT need to play Counter Strike. Seriously, this is how my August 23rd night went:

I just finished taking my midterm exam in Property subject at MSU College of Law. I hiked away to go back home. Before finally going out of the campus, I’ve caught a throng of university and law students gathering in front of the flat screen TV mounted on one of MSU-IIT’s lounges.

What I saw was a tourist bus surrounded by a throng of creeping policemen on a dark rainy night. They lobbed to tear gas into the bus. There was hostage taking situation in the Quirino Grandstand, Manila.

I’ve thought of it as an inconsequential event so I just straddled my way. Maybe it was just a trivial hostage drama, I thought. As I’m approaching towards our lodging house, I’ve noticed that TV sets are all tuned in to the same hostage drama taking place. And it then made me curious why it was broadcasted play-by-play on live TV.

Reaching my place, I hurriedly turned my TV on and found out that yes, it was a hostage taking of a certain Police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza. Earlier in the day, according to reports, Mendoza hitched a ride on the Hong Thai Bus but then pulled out an M16 automatic rifle and declared he was taking the 25 passengers hostage.

With the hostage taking starting at 10:30 AM, it ended nearly half a day. A total of seven hostages were released before six o’clock and before the agitated hostage taker initiated the carnage. Mendoza would have been trained in police tactics and known what to expect and as it seemed, he was better trained than the 200-strong (?) police and SWAT team that assaulted him.

At the end of the day, eight innocent Hong Kong nationals died. A both fiasco and carnage witnessed by the 90 million Filipinos and the rest of the whole wide world (through CNN, BBC, Fox News,etc.)

If there was a day that made me ashamed of being a Filipino, last Monday would probably be one. Even if I was not personally involved; I was outraged on how things went awry which should have been prevented if only brains were used instead of plain stupidity.

A lot of things and changes ought to be done (as always). Our policemen and SWAT were too coward not to employ an aggression that would follow through. Kapag may putok mula sa bus, kanya-kanya na sila nang retreat at tago. That's why I suggest our cops to play computer games like Splinter Cell, Delta Force or old school Counter Strike. They may also watch movies that should help them improve in strategizing: Misdirection techniques in Swordfish; Injection of sleeping gas, compressed air propelled hook to puncture the door to be pulled by a truck, and false broadcast courtesy of Speed 1. Or infrared scopes from that of the movie, Navy Seals.

MPD have shown to the world that we lack equipment. Are we really that poor not to have ladders? No flashlights attached to firearms? No night vision goggles? Although we clearly had other things that may be of use: a sledgehammer and an old rope that would snap after tying it to the door.

Another possible option’s that they could have just accepted his demands. He could be reinstated in the police - and then be immediately put in prison for life for hostage taking. It’s a must to hear the grievance of Mendoza first, and give initial soft assurance. After all he is not doing it for money.

My brothers and sisters in the media should also be partly blamed for the bloody end of the incident. They covered it as it happens without knowing that they’ve been giving the hostage taker leeway to ascertain the movements of the detachments. The live coverage could have been giving Mendoza up-to-date knowledge of how the police are trying to sneak up on him. Definitely not an intelligent move.

What the media did as part of their job completely disregarded the safety of both the hostages and the police. News blackout might be good as it was used by the Arroyo administration in a coup attempt a few years back. No one was hurt; no fatalities. After seeing his brother’s arrest, the hostage taker started killing some of his hostages in protest of what the police did to his brother. They should not have telecasted live since we know how the police might screw this up.

With its apparent international implications, Pres. Noynoy Aquino should have been visibly engaged in hostage situations. The event surely is a difficult challenge for the communications group of PNoy; not to mention his image-building moves. He just came out after the carnage; obviously showing signs of lousiness. Unavailable and cannot be reached by both reporters and Donald Tsang; that day, I felt that Isko Moreno was our president. Let’s see how he would skip this one. Tan-awa. Mao man gu’y inyong gebotaran.

To quote from Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's leader, “The way it was handled [by the Philippine police], particularly the outcome, is disappointing.” Ouch. The truth hurts. (Click here for the anime reenactment of the incident)

So, what are the things to expect for the weeks, months, and years to come? A lot of negative things. Hong Kong has placed the Philippines on the blacklist of countries to actively avoid, urging its nationals currently in the Philippines to immediately pack up and leave. We may expect maulings and dismissals of our OFW’s working in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mainland China. Singapore (with 70% of its population are Chinese) and Malaysia (around 40% Chinese, forming the urban majority in some cities) may follow suit.

At this point in time, a full report is eminent. It has to present thorough detailed crime scene including autopsy reports (if any) of the deceased and surviving victims. Full scale investigation will also be carried out in Hong Kong by those surviving victims and whether there was negligence. If there was sufficient evidence, the victims will then seek legal experts and most likely will convene a class action law suit against the Philippines government for unspecified sum for the deceased and victims.

Our already damaged reputation was exacerbated by our incompetence in handling these situations. As of the moment, it seems there’s a pint of hope left to ease off the siege’s effects. Unless we change our rotten system, the world will have no choice but to see us all in a bad light. We simply can’t beg other nationalities to see us positively with all this happening. Venus Raj’s win in the Miss Universe did not do much. A teenager’s letter hoping that “the world will know who the Filipinos are and that we're not all like Mendoza” did not do much either.

After all, it’s major, major big mistake to correct a big wrong decision.