Monday, August 23, 2010


It was shocking to say the least.

We thought we have seen it before. A hostage crisis that inevitably attracts international media attention. Oh yes---the world saw us again very clearly on the map! SIKAT!!!NAKS!!!

In 2007, we had one. The world took notice. We were on the headlines again as CNN, BBC and the rest of the international TV networks flashed the events unfolding at the center of Metro Manila.

It was also a tensed situation but ended especially so since it involved 30-pre-school children held hostage by a troubled civil engineer who owns the school where the kids are enrolled in kindergarten.

It took 10 hours of negotiation to end that hostage crisis. While it involved pre-school children, it was clear from the very beginning that there was no threat on the part of the hostage taker to kill any of the hostages.

This one was clearly a different case.

I was at the Office of the Chief of the Philippine National Police this morning when the news broke about a hostage taking happening at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

Immediately, the Chief of the PNP was informed about it and instructions were relayed down the line, command responsibilities, an unwritten code in the service.

The hostage-taker:Former Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, 55 years old and the victims included 20 Hongkong nationals, including children, traveling as a group on tour in the Philippines.

Joseph Tung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said the tourists on the bus were aged between four and 72. They were on a three-day tour and were scheduled to return to Hong Kong today on a night flight.

An entire nation was glued to their TV sets, internet TV and radio to monitor the events unfolding, the drama, the action---scenes that eclipsed all running tele-dramas on primetime television.

But it's not just any drama or action. It's real life and we all witnessed it live!

Mendoza boarded the bus in Manila’s historic tourist district in the morning and then released nine people throughout the day as he demanded that he get his job back and be allowed to speak to the media.

Around 5:20 p.m. Philippine time, a shot was heard from inside the hijacked bus. And more shots were heard after that especially towards past 7:30 in the evening.

But it took some more time before the assault was ordered and the Special Action Forces made their move. Should I even care make a commentary on that when any tom, dick and harry saw what happened and what never happened? What actions were taken and what action were not taken?

Mendoza was a decorated police officer and was even awarded as one of the Top 10 Police Officers in the country in 1986.

He was discharged in 2008 for his alleged involvement in drug-related crimes and extortion, according to his police records because of the virtue of command responsibility. His dismissal was a case that underwent hearing at the Office of the Ombudsman.

“He wants to be reinstated in the service,” Manila district police chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay said but can any officer of government just decide on that especially so if the means he did to call attention to his case was something that was not only illegal but placed the entire nation in shame.

He knew he would never be reinstated. He knew that the brown envelope from Manila Vice Mayor Iskho Moreno meant nothing. He was never really on a mind-set to negotiate. He meant to kill and cause damage that will have a lasting effect on the country that he thought abandoned and betrayed him.

His intention to kill, be killed and even end his own life was very clear and was in fact reiterated by the bus driver that he freed.

In one of the messages that he posted on the bus, it read:“Big mistake for big wrong decision”, apparently in reference to his sacking.

And so he thought---the country he served must pay!

In the end---hostages killed. Foreign nationals, tourists who chose the Philippines as the place to visit and unwind. Many of these tourists---at least four of them as of latest unofficial count---will be coming home in boxes---dead. All their cherished memories of the three days past gone in oblivion, replaced by a tragic ending that appeared unimaginable.

This one act spoke volumes about real stories about the police and those who served past and present and even those wanting to be police officers. Ironic as it sounds, it's really true that some police officers who retired end up victims of the very law and order and the justice system that they pledged to serve and uphold as law enforces.

But this was something internal to the Philippines.

What is even more frightening is how the world sees us after this tragic incident.

Tourism for one is now in limbo. What tourism slogan and campaign program can salvage the image that was created by this incident? WOW Philippines RELOADED?

But you know what?

I am worried about something else, something that is more lasting and bigger in terms of problems, scenarios that can be considered an after effect of this incident.

Hongkong is now under China again---that we must all remember and we knew China's positioning now in terms of world power and influence.

I suddenly felt the urge to check again on the last report on the force and military build-up in the Spratley Group of Islands by the Chinese Military Forces. I maybe watching too many movies of these kinds, I should stop before other scenarios crop up.

Or maybe I am just paranoid, I suddenly felt worried about the many Filipinos working in Hongkong right now. Can they still go to that public park that serves as their home away from home after this incident? Maybe I am just paranoid. Maybe I should erase all the scenarios that are cropping up as I place this entry in my blog site.

But who am I kidding? Who are we kidding?

What just happened was not one of those hostage-taking gone wrong.

It was something else.

It will take a lot of effort and political will on the part of the administration to unshake the international impact of the incident that just shocked us all.

Former Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza was ready to die today and he made sure he will be remembered for eternity.#