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Monday, August 30, 2010


The country's commemorating the National Heroes Day today, also exactly a week after the bloody tourist bus hostage at the Quirino Grandstand. So much public outcry came (and is still coming) on the heels of the said mishap that left eight Hong Kong nationals dead, particularly blaming the local police and the government for being 'too late the hero.'

Call me apathetic, but I do remember having regarded the situation trivial upon seeing the news on TV that early afternoon. Others actually thought the same. My officemates and I, during our coffee break, never put a thought on the safety of the hostages but rather on their need to eat and to use the loo. We trusted the authorities to handle the crisis well, as much as the 20-odd hostages believed that they would go safely back home at the end of that day.

The situation oddly seemed so easy to deal with. The hostage-taker Capt. Rolando Mendoza, a dismissed police officer, though appeared to be armed did not look like he was capable of killing or even hurting his captives. This was further affirmed by the survivors who said Mendoza did tell them early on that he did not intend to hurt anybody and just wanted to have his case be heard again in the court, for him to be reinstated in the service and be able to receive his benefits. He was also plausible enough for releasing at least nine of the hostages amid the requests for him to do so. These actuations of Mendoza somewhat told us that this guy was indeed willing to be cooperative, which, if considered otherwise would have sounded like an underestimation of him. Nevertheless, for the hostage crisis to last for virtually 12 hours let alone for it to end in a carnage was unexpected yet very wrathfully disappointing.

Now, different groups point out who's at fault. The media was partly censured for not having a set of rules in covering hostage crisis as the hostage-taker turned out to be closely monitoring the live broadcast news on the bus's TV. Interestingly, I heard someone opined that TV networks should have had a delayed broadcast of the news then. Not a moot point, I guess.

About three to four years ago, if I may digress, our class conducted a lecture on hostage crisis management as a final requirement in one of our major subjects. It was basically for us to know what role media has in such situations. We invited a police officer, a Manila's finest, to give the talk. His introduction was that of a hypothetical question: Two brothers are arguing over who has the right to have the one and only banana placed by their mother on the table. If you were the mother, what would you do? If I remember it right, our guest speaker was the very same person who tagged himself as the self-imposed negotiator during the Quirino Grandstand hostage-taking incident. Right, it was Yebra. I also remember him explaining this 'stronghold' stuff, which is the cordoned off area where the hostage-taking actually takes place. I do hope my memory serves me right on this: the media is not allowed inside that 'stronghold.' Not ever.

The PNP, on the other hand, was atop the list of who's-to-blame for being inept on crisis management, therefore adding weight to the force's burdens nowadays. Pardon me for including this here, but the same 'someone' (opinionated eh?) also remarked that the local police instead are highly skilled with containing strikes and the like, being exposed to such great a deal of political and social affairs during the preceding administrations. Whereas, likewise during those times, they were not appropriately trained to handle hostage crisis. On this let me add that we ARE NOT actually new to these things, having witnessed them on the news — or, for some to 'have been at the right moment at the right time,' even personally — in the past. Now one wonders why we still have not learned and improved.

Deemed as a sign of contempt for what happened, the Hong Kong government issued an advisory urging its people to refrain from all travel to the Philippines. Consequently, flight bookings to Manila from mainland China and Hong Kong were down, as cited by some newspaper reports. Needless to say, the tourism-related firms, even in just a short span of time, swayed to losses. It's very saddening, however, that some Hong Kongers took it out on our common people, the Filipino domestic helpers working in Hong Kong in particular (rational thinking is not in abundant supply lately, don't you think?). On a personal note, I do find it very rude that some folks had even bad-mouthed the President's seemingly always-smiling face. Even that?!

Nobody wanted such tragedy to happen. These unfortunate events could happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime. It's just that one happened in our place, to us. Let's just pray for the repose of the fatalities' souls and for everything to be 'OK'. Then let's move on... to making another news, but this time, a literally good one.