On hostage taking

Crimes happen anywhere, everywhere – and so does hostage taking. It can happen on land, up in the air inside airplanes, or even on board ocean liners. It can happen not only in Manila but also anywhere in America or in Australia. Some are reported. Some are not. Is media to blame? But media has its responsibilities. People have a right to know.

Hostage takers choose no nationalities. At the time the decision is made, the mind of the hostage taker is blurred. He thinks only of his immediate objective, whatever that might be.

He can pick on anyone. He usually picks the closest person within his reach, oftentimes because he is desperate to achieve his objective.

In the case of Manila Police Captain Rolando Mendoza who resorted to hostage-taking, he wanted to be re-instated in his former job. He believed that he was wrongly dismissed. Why did he choose a tourist bus? Maybe because he knew that the passengers were non-Filipinos, and probably more valued by the authorities than his own countrymen. Maybe the tourist bus was in his line of sight at the time he made the decision. It was obviously pre-meditated because police officers do not normally carry an assault rifle which Mendoza took with him inside the bus.

There were negotiations that lasted for 12 hours. Did the Manila Police Force have qualified, trained and experienced negotiators? Footages shown on You Tube indicate that they had none. Those who dared participate in the failed negotiations were no better than amateurs. The SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team who scampered towards the bus gave Mendoza the signal that he was going to die. So he made a desperate decision to take others with him by spraying bullets to everyone on sight. As of this writing, no one knows for sure if the bullets that killed the 8 Hong Kong tourists were fired from the M-16 rifle that Mendoza had with him. A statement made by one of the hostages who survived indicates that Mendoza was firing at the SWAT team and not at the passengers on the bus.

They could have made extra effort to make Mendoza believe that he was going to be re-instated in his former job. Mendoza was desperate and that was all he wanted. He was willing to die for his cause. He knew he was going to die but his death and the death of the Hong Kong tourists could have been avoided.

There is high unemployment rate in the Philippines and the present economic condition makes the situation even worse. Hostage-taking can happen again as more people become desperate to survive and provide food for their starving families.

An unwanted consequence of this recent event could be a big reduction of inward tourism, not only from Hong Kong but from all over the world. Coupled with the grounding of some aircrafts of Philippine Airlines brought about by the exodus of its low-paid pilots, the tourism industry now faces a bleak future. Hopefully, what happened is an isolated incident. President Benigno Aquino III faces a big challenge. – ? DMC