A tragedy commences another crisis

written on August 26, 2010

It’s been three days since dismissed Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza took hostage a bus with 25 tourists from Hong Kong and four Filipinos (including the bus driver) in front of the Quirino Grandstand. The hostage that lasted almost 12 hours ended in a tragedy with nine of the hostages getting killed including Mendoza.

Who’s Rolando Mendoza? Mendoza was among the five officers charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats before the Sandiganbayan following the complaint filed by a hotel chef. According to the complainant, he was flagged down by the policemen and when he refused to give them the money they were asking, they had him swallow shabu and filed a case against him.

Mendoza, armed with an M16 rifle demanded for the Ombudsman to review his case. He wanted to be reinstated to his post and receive all the retirement benefits the court took away from him following his dismissal.

At first Mendoza was easy to talk to, freeing hostages every time his requests were granted like food for the hostages and  gas for the bus.

But then when evening came, Mendoza started to get agitated. The letter from the office of the Ombudsman proved to be not enough for him anymore. His brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, who was earlier reprimanded by police officers handling the crisis because he was trying to get closer to the bus with a pistol, was taken by the police. Seeing his brother being held by the police, the hostage taker was said to have lost his cool and started shooting the remaining hostages inside the bus. What happened next was a tragedy that earned international community’s ire.

Fast forward to Tuesday, August 24

Some of us were able to distract ourselves and take comfort with the fact that our bet to Ms. Universe, Ma. Venus Raj, made it to top five and placed fourth in the prestigious contest but majority still couldn’t believe that we have been witness to a carnage that put our country in another difficult situation.

Foreigners started blaming the incompetence of the government and the police force.

Let me just say my take on this:

I hate the usiseros who made it more difficult for our police force to efficiently go inside the bus and take the situation under their control.

I hate our kababayans who still have the heart to pose for the camera with the place of the bloody incident as their background. I even saw students and yes, police officers who were all smiling when the picture was taken. How insensitive of them! I don’t care about the foreigners/tourists, maybe for them this was part of their trip—to be at the place of the carnage that placed the Philippines in the middle of the world’s ire. But for our fellowmen to actually put salt on the wounds we are carrying right now, what a shame.

I am also disappointed with how the media made a feast out of the whole situation. And I mean the general media—both local and international. Lives were at stake but they were still thinking of the scoop, of the ratings. If they were really sincere in their intention of helping to end the situation, maybe they could have stopped airing live footage of the on-going hostage-taking especially how the police were positioning themselves.

I hope the media entities will also own up to their mistakes. They have their guidelines  on how to act on situations like this. Please correct me if I am wrong but I think I heard a media personality say that if only there was an officer in charge who told  them what to do, maybe they would take heed and distance themselves from the scene of the hostage-taking. The only problem was there was no one in command during that time. Again, pardon me if I am mistaken. But do you have to be told by an authority to back off when you know there is a possibility that things can be out of control? Together with the authorities, I hope the Philippine media will be able to come up with concrete guidelines that will be observed when a similar situation is at hand.

I thank Jackie Chan for his broad understanding on the incident. I am also grateful to the Chinese newspaper that came out with an editorial urging the Chinese people and the rest of the world not to take their anger on the rest of the Filipinos working and living in Hong Kong.

Together with all the families of the victim, I grieve for what happened. I ask that they forgive us in due time. I hope that they do not let this ruin the friendship the Filipinos and Chinese maintained for so many years now.

I hope our neighboring countries will not look at the Philippines the way they look at countries where terrorists and strife abound. I hope that if they point out our shortcomings they will do it objectively. Please be fair. We all make mistakes. Let us learn from our blunders and stand up again.

I also pray that instead of pointing fingers to one another, Filipinos should unite and face this crisis as one nation. The last thing we need at this time is to feel pity for ourselves and to disown our country.


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