There was not much about the first report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) regarding the August 23, 2010 Rizal Park Hostage-taking incident that we didn’t already know or suspected. The report did give us specifics and an in-depth analysis of the level of incompetence of those who were unlucky enough to have been in the front line of the crisis. However, much of it was already obvious to us all.
It was hard for me to read something that I knew had a very sad ending. It was worse than watching the film United 93, a film depiction of the hijacked United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. But the film at least had a better script than the IIRC report. It showed the bravery of the American citizens and how they were not willing to go down without a fight. Their efforts averted a much bigger disaster had the plane crashed on its intended target, The Pentagon.
Much as I always want to know how a story ends before reading it in a piece of literature, reading the IIRC report had a chilling effect on me. It was the 23rd of August once again but it is not exactly a date that any of us would like to go back to if we could travel back in time. Of course, we cannot really change anything about the past, and therefore reading about the incompetence of the Philippine National Police, the arrogance of the Philippine media and the lack of leadership in our public officials in cold atomic detail is quite confronting — even for a realist like me.
Alas, the Filipino’s penchant for making mountains out of molehills was on display yet again after the IIRC report was submitted first to China before the Filipino people. I never thought I would say this but, poor President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) can’t seem to do anything right nowadays in the eyes of some Filipinos. Some Senators and Congressmen have insisted that giving China priority crack at the report is like bowing down to a master. Senator Joker Arroyo even went as far as saying that Philippine sovereignty is in doubt now that “the Aquino government is showing more sensitivity to the Chinese people while ignoring the Filipinos’ own sentiments“. Gee, give P-Noy a break will you guys! (Insert sarcastic grin here).
This time, I can agree with Malacanang’s efforts to try and appease China. Who cares what the rest of the Filipinos think? Majority of us have never shown an iota of care about how our police force is trained and majority of us have never shown much interest in how our public officials conduct their businesses in the last several decades. Why are we so eager to find out now about something every Filipino just shrugs off or could not have been be bothered with before the crisis? At least the Chinese people are going to be reading something new to them — even a bit alien to them, like the concept of taking a key role in the defense force despite possessing insufficient mastery or skill in handling crisis situations. After all, China is the land of martial arts experts and Olympic champions that take their place among the best of the best in the world.
Just to highlight, this is how ill-equipped and ill-prepared our members of the Philippine National Police are:
In fact they had to rehearse on the very day of the hostage situation. The trainings of the Manila SWAT as provided by the Manila Police District are not updated and simulated operations were conducted, if ever conducted, was a long time ago. They don’t even know the serial numbers of their guns at an instant query. They train on their own personal account. Skill acquired through trainings diminishes after some time and needs to be constantly updated.
“Skill acquired through trainings diminishes after some time and needs to be constantly updated“. Ok, now we know that our police force do not know this rule. This should really make us very nervous indeed. One has to wonder what do they do for training?
I don’t know why the Philippine media is crying foul after some journalists were recommended to be included in the list of those liable for the tragic event by the IIRC. It was a no-brainer that the media’s narcissistic style of reporting made too much entertainment out of a serious event which made everyone too catatonic and glued to the television — including the hostage taker himself Rolando Mendoza who managed to achieve his 15 minutes of fame before his death. I suppose too that everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame judging from the way reporter Erwin Tulfo wriggled his way inside the cordoned area with a cameraman in tow even when hostage taker Mendoza specifically asked for a female reporter and, more importantly, even when he wasn’t supposed to be there. Even radio reporter Michael Rogas of Radio Mo Network (RMN) took it upon himself to occupy the only line of communication available to the hostage taker, Mendoza’s cellphone, despite him not being an official hostage negotiator. These so-called journalists need someone to shake them vigorously just to make sure their brain is still attached to their skull.
It was also blatantly obvious that the brother of Rolando, Gregorio Mendoza, should be charged with inciting and aggravating the situation resulting in the deaths of his brother and the eight Chinese tourists. I now understand why he had to be subdued and handcuffed. He kept telling his brother not to agree to any terms unless the Police handed his gun back. He may have well been an accessory to the crime for agitating his own brother by shouting, “Papatayin nila ako! Papatayin nila ako! Hindi ako accessory!” Not charging him with something is a crime in itself.
There were so many holes that needed to be filled in the report. There were so many questions that I am pretty sure even the Chinese are wanting to ask. One question that keeps bugging me is: What is this preoccupation with food? I can understand why Rolando Mendoza ordered food for the hostages at a point when he still thought he was going to get what he wanted. But why in God’s name did Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim fail to have lunch even after arriving at the crime scene for the first time at 5pm? According to the report “Mayor Lim then left for Emerald Restaurant at 6:45 p.m. because he didn’t have lunch yet and it looked like the crisis will last until dawn so they will just exhaust Mendoza until he gives up.” Couldn’t he have ordered the food to go?
One could be forgiven for mistaking the IIRC report for a script from Dumb and Dumber with Mayor Lim playing the lead character who constantly prioritized his empty stomach above anything else. Emerald restaurant must have raked in the earnings that night considering that every high ranking official from the local office in the City of Manila up to the top man in Malacanang with his aides just had to have dinner first before anything else. Filipinos and their food – they are so inseparable. Our obsession with food might just be the cause of our downfall and not our survival.
One thing is for sure, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno worked very hard during the day of the crisis coordinating and running around for everyone just to facilitate what needed to be done. It would be another crime if he gets charged for anything because of the incident.
Again, there was not much in the report that we didn’t already know. But the thing that Filipinos should still be asking is the real whereabouts of President Noynoy Aquino. Initially, his communication team released a statement saying that he was in a “closed door meeting” on the 23rd of August and supposedly explains why he was unable to talk to Hong Kong Official Donald Tsang. Now the official IIRC report is claiming that he was in Malacanang monitoring the crisis on TV from 1 o’clock pm.
At around 1:00 p.m., Col. Medina arrived at Malacanang from the NCRPO and reported to Undersecretary Rico Puno. He then briefed the President on the hostage-taking. During the briefing, the President ordered him that in case of an assault on the bus, the PNP Special Action Force Crisis Response Group (SAF-CRG) be used and that one ambulance per hostage should be readied. Medina sent General Santiago text messages regarding the President’s orders and later called him again to repeat the orders of the President. Later, while he was still in the meeting with the President monitoring the hostage-taking on TV, General Magtibay called and Medina relayed to him the orders of the President to use the SAF-CRG in case of an assault on the bus. Magtibay said “Oo” (Yes) three times.
Can we really believe the above considering that the statement is also insinuating that P-Noy’s instructions to use the PNP Special Action Force Crisis Response Group (SAF-CRG) landed on deaf ears? It sounds like fiction to me.