Hostage Crisis in Manila

August 23, 2010. Former Chief Superintendent Rolando Mendoza takes a tourist bus full of Hong Kong Nationals hostage as they were in transit en route to Manila Ocean Park. It began at 10 in the morning, and eventually ended in a bloodbath that tragically claimed the lives of 9 victims.

There’s a lot of buzz going around that things could have been and should have been done differently so they wouldn’t have had to end the way they did.

I completely agree.

But am I one of the very few who actually feel sympathetic to our local Police force and the field agents who were handling on-ground negotiations?

In a hostage crisis, expert negotiators have said that the greatest weapon of field agents trying to resolve a hostage situation is patience. Allow the situation to unfold on its own, and the hostage taker to to dictate his pace as he slowly comes to believe that his demands are being met.

The fact of the matter is, the hostage negotiations were going smoothly, until the hostage taker’s family members were apprehended by the police force. Many have raged against this move. But the fact of the matter was, the hostage taker’s brother relinquished his right to be treated with compassion the minute he started goading his brother into not giving in to the hostage negotiators until he (the brother, not the hostage taker) had been given back his gun.

In what universe should a scenario like this be tolerated, and the individual not be held accountable for his actions? Loved ones of hostage takers brought to the scene are meant to help diffuse the situation, not aggravate it further.

We can also blame the police SWAT team all we want. But to give them credit, these people put their lives on the line by attempting to assault the hostaged bus. They did the best they could given the circumstances. I challenge any critics to try to figure out how to properly and successfully assault the scene that had only one tiny door, and confront a madman who used the hostage victims as human shields.

While watching the drama unfold on national television, one of the things I immediately thought of even before the situation rapidly changed for the worst — was the media’s role in all of this. It’s one thing to give transparency to the nation, but another to put a mission as critical at risk just to get a story out. I couldn’t quite imagine why on earth everything was being shown on National TV, including their assault strategy, the apprehension of Mendoza’s family that ultimately pushed him over the edge. Talk about discretion in planning for and executing a successful rescue operation. And as we already know, it didn’t quite turn out the way we’d all hoped.

My heart goes out to all the victims of this tragedy, and my prayers and condolences go with them.

If we are to have learned something from this entire debacle, then I hope that:

  1. Our media would learn to exercise better discernment in their quest for professional and more importantly, responsible journalism.
  2. Our field agents (whether military, police, marines, etc.) be given proper training, equipment and all the tools and skills they need to enable them to do their jobs better.
  3. Filipinos in general would exercise better judgment and exercise some modicum of self-control and self-sacrifice on times that call for it. I will forever wonder what the hostage taker’s brother had in mind when he started exacerbating the situation and further fueling his brother’s anger. What on earth was that supposed to accomplish??

Oh, and one last thing.

I read in one blog that says that the assault team should have done something as early as mid afternoon because clearly, the hostage taker was insane and deranged, therefore the situation would have come to the same end either way.

I have this to say about that. Every hostage taker is insane and deranged. Have you ever known of a hostage taker who was in his right mind when the act was committed?