Quirino Grandstand: Anatomy of a Tragedy

For much of the whole day, I was unaware of what was happening in the country. I was busy at work, writing. But at 10 pm, after finishing work, I turned on the TV to watch the news and was shocked by what I was watching.

For those who do not know, a dismissed police officer took a busload of HK tourists hostage and demanded he be reinstated. After 10 hours, the incident ended in bloodshed, with 9 dead, including the hostage taker, dismissed Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza. (for more details, you can read the news here)

As I watched further, my shock turned to rage and then to utter exasperation as I learned how the situation was handled by the authorities. My ire grew as I realized how much damage broadcast media did by not exercising their best judgment.

As the dust settles, and the victims’ families are left to wonder how such senseless killing can happen; how a supposedly calm hostage-taker turned violent and how things can quickly lose control, I’m left to ponder on these points this tragedy has made me realize.

1. Our police still lacks training in hostage situations. Nothing demonstrated this more than the forceful arrest of the hostage taker’s brother. Rule number 1 in a hostage negotiator’s book: NEVER AGITATE THE HOSTAGE TAKER. Whoever ordered the arrest should be summarily dismissed.

2. Ten hours. Ten long hours and no one in the government even thought of issuing a media blackout in the light of the fact that: police movement were being aired live, hampering efforts at tactical positioning. Authorities suspected Mendoza was able to monitor everything through the TV inside the bus. Yet no one even asked the media: pretty please, will you fucking use your minds?

No wonder it took a long time for SWAT to respond when shots were finally fired. They were too far away to act swiftly. In other countries, media blackout is SOP when there are hostage-taking incidents. It should be SOP here too.

3. Network bosses have blood in their hands. Airing tactical police movement. Airing the arrest of Mendoza’s brother. The former hampered police activity, the latter incensed the hostage taker. At the end of the day, someone in each TV station have to be made to pay. With power comes much responsibility. You abused yours.

4. The President issued a statement regarding the incident. As we follow his statement, we learned a few things. One, the authorities believed the situation can be ended peacefully when Mendoza released hostages. Lulled by this, the authorities let down their guard. Two, the authorities are claiming an unknown individual was talking to Mendoza over the phone while he was reading a letter from the Ombudsman promising to review his case. The authorities claim it is this individual  who agitated Mendoza. How they knew he was talking to somebody is beyond me. Perhaps he was talking to his lawyer?

5. The online world exploded with angry and shocked comments regarding the incident. Many were disgusted at how the police handled the situation. A few like me also blamed the media for not exercising their best judgment. Yet somehow, amidst all this, some demented fuck was able to make fun of this situation. Crazier still were the comments on the game. One player commented: i tried playing the game but the Bin Laden Liquor seems to be much more easier. Improvements must be done.

6. HK issued a travel ban against the Philippines. Understandable. As government tries to make the best of the situation, many fear this would affect the country’s tourism. I can only say: WTF? 8 civilians died you insensitive louts, can we put worries about tourism aside? I was half-expecting PNOY to explode when a reporter asked him this question. He should’ve at least been indignant when asked the question. No life can be so trivial as to pale to a country’s tourism worries. What would’ve Boy Abunda said if he was the Dept. Secretary? We wonder.

7. A dismissed police officer possessing a high powered firearm. What happened to surrendering your weapons upon dismissal? The brother too, had a gun. The bus’ driver, had a nail cutter. What are the odds?

8. Psychological profiling and testing is badly needed in PMA and in our police training academies. No police undergrad should ever graduate without passing a very stringent psychological examination. Psychological stress testing should also be done to weed out those who would break under pressure. Admittedly, only sick twist fucks would choose a job which involves killing people.

9. Fastfood was delivered in the early hours of the negotiation. Free advertising for said fastfood chain as their logo was clearly visible in the videos being taken. At one point, I was reminded of the PAGCOR check encashment scandal. Abalos had his “burjer,” the policemen of NCRPO had their 21-M worth of hamburgers, and the hostage taker and the hostages had theirs too. Yes. The Philippines is officially a fastfood nation.

10. Phillipine SWAT – Sorry Wala Akong Training. Sobrang Wala Akong Training. Sorry We Ain’t Trained.

PostScript

11. Just hours after the incident ended, Wikipedia already had a page up about it. In contrast, it took the Aquino administration past midnight to issue a statement.

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About Jao

33 years old, married, one child, freelance writer, daydreamer, aspiring filmmaker, voracious reader, internet addict, incorrigible procrastinator.
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