26 August, 2010

Eye Opener In The Philippines

August 23, 2010 - What happened Tuesday in the Quirino Grandstand is none other than the result of both bad luck and law enforcement delinquency combined in a mix.

A Chinese myself, I know (and I believe) that July in the Lunar Calendar marks a full month of tragedies. While mere superstition cannot solely be the basis to explain the turn of events, police performance reinforced the claim into something agreeable. What seemed innocuous at first turned for the worse when the hostage-taker started opening fire inside the bus. All gleamer of hope got instantly snuffed out, and the gravity of the situation had to employ force into the equation.

Unfortunately for the victims, those in command were not able to exercise their authority to take full control of the situation. A bunch of journalists were broadcasting every second of the intensifying drama from start to finish. The hostage taker, SPO4 Rolando Mendoza, was watching the standoff being televised in every major local news channel. Gaining access to the information beyond the confines of the tourist bus played a major role on how the drama had suddenly turned awry.

Seeing his family suffering - his brother being dragged into custody like a pig waiting execution (on TV) - Mendoza was quick to react, beginning with several gunshots heard from within the bus, and later ending with some devastating M16 machine gun sprees directed outward. Bullet-holed glass windows, and people taking cover were not uncommon scenes. A stray bullet even hit one bystander on the lower limb. Hostage-takers gamble their lives into do-or-die situations. How their mood swings determines the outcome - the number of lives saved or lost. Feeling himself responsible for putting his family at risk fed him all the guilt that was the LAST THING negotiators want a hostage-taker to carry on their shoulders.

The incompetence of the police force that counteracted to the ongoing killing spree only led many to depend on miracles instead. Either he gets shot by snipers quick or he comes to his senses and surrenders. Clearly from the video news channels were broadcasting, the police force that stormed around the bus had made common sensual mistakes that put their names on the line for even more bashing. One, breaking in. Steel door versus fiber ropes? Two, taking too long to neutralize the frenzied Mendoza. It lasted an hour before victims got their medical attention. Three, wrong people to finish the job? They were panicking - not exactly sure what to do.

By the time Mendoza finally had his share of "Death" after his prolonged "Doing," some innocent lives had already been lost. Others were rushed into different hospitals for treatment, with some dying on arrival. A total of 9 people including Mendoza, died in a span of a few hours. He died from a single sniper rifle bullet to the head.

Rolando Mendoza, after receiving several medals for his good conduct within his 30 years of service to the Filipinos, marred his name by ending it like a terrorist - bringing innocent people along. However, his cause should never be ovelooked nor ignored; he is also a victim of injustice from a country limping from misgovernance since who knows when.

Now that the world has been disappointed by yet another "Made in the Philippines" action, the government must begin scrutinizing itself and look for loopholes that need covering. Implemening lapses on media coverage, for instance, should be handled with steadfast prudence depending on the context of the situation. And discernment must come from the authority - not the media. Strict regulations, together with improvement in our public servants's salaries and benefits, must also follow suit.

The incident was an isolated case; the victims were at the wrong place at the wrong time. But had Mendoza been taken with serious care and attention when he first filed a complaint about his case, the incident would have never happened. Now that it has already passed, however, learning things the hard way is what's left for Filipinos to reflect on again.