EVERY Filipino should remember Rolando Mendoza’s name from now on. For after yesterday’s shameful showing of sordid stupidity, the weaknesses in our media and in our police force have been finally revealed. But mostly, a weakness in character for the Filipino people in general.
And it’s not as if we are not already aware of these things, we just choose not to discuss it for fear of showing weakness. But what’s the point of trying to put up a brave face anymore when it’s so obvious. It, being the fact that we are scared. We all are.
On August 23, Mendoza took control of a bus carrying tourists from Hong Kong, with the
wish, no, wish is such a pleasant word, with the demand that his case, whereby he was dismissed on extortion charges by the Office of the Ombudsman early this year, be reviewed.
Dinaan sa dahas is how we Filipinos could describe it. Mendoza took matters into his own hands, maintaining his innocence in the charges he was facing, effectively putting at risk the lives of innocent people—and eventually leading to the loss of some—while shaming the Philippines at the same time.
I agree, yes, that there shouldn’t be any finger-pointing as to who should be blamed for what happened. What there should be, however, is accountability. Let those who are brave enough to admit fault step forward without fear of being chastised by the general public.
As a member of the media myself, I’ve always had a problem with “the public has the right to know” concept-slash-excuse. As evidenced by yesterday’s hostage crisis, what Mendoza—who was still technically part of the public the media was reporting to—was knowing led to something that could have been avoided had the media been more sensitive or perhaps been better trained in situations as extraordinary is this.
As for the Philippine police, I certainly don’t see them being in the list of top 100 best police force in the world any time soon but did everybody see just how unprepared they are? Wow. It’s as if they rushed the bus without any plan in mind but to smash the windows and the doors, hoping that Mendoza would be too rattled to do anything and not have the state of mind to aim his armalite at his hostages.
Dude, Mendoza was a Senior Inspector. Certainly, and quite an irony actually, you’d assume he would be trained for high-pressure situations like this. What the police should have done first was to identify Mendoza’s character. I haven’t even read anywhere about a psychologist being brought in so they could at least figure out what Mendoza could be capable of doing.
After that, the police should have laid out several possible scenarios that could happen if they did this, and that, then this and then that. And they should be able to execute whatever plans they conclude to be best with such swiftness that Mendoza wouldn't have the slightest idea what hit him. Which, in this case was a bullet from a sniper rifle. But if that was the only course they had, why had it not been done earlier? Mendoza lined up the hostages along the sides of the bus? Then why not figure a way to draw him out into the open?
And whose decision was it to include Mendoza’s brother, Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza in the equation? Were there even discussions whether having the brother would actually be good or only make matters worse? If he did squirm his way into the area, with a gun nonetheless, how lax then was the security? I'm certainly no expert in these matters, but apparently, nobody in this country is. For if there were any, where were they?
I’ve heard various stories as to what really agitated the hostage taker and I pray that we get something concrete soon. Nevertheless, whatever the real reason may be, it still doesn't change the fact that it was all downhill the moment the brother came into the picture.
Allow me to say that not all Filipinos who are fired from their jobs, even if the cause be a wrongful accusation as Mendoza insisted, resort to taking hostages. Mendoza was the worst of us. But for the rest of the world, he’s just another crazy Filipino and the fear that there could be more of him is certainly at the back of their minds.
This is why I hope that the world would not judge the Philippines and its citizenry to be all messed up. Any and every society has its own Mendozas to deal with. Unfortunately, how yesterday was dealt with could have been better, meaning no life should have been lost.
But apart from Mendoza, I can attest that we Filipinos are better than this. Filipinos are known to strive harder when faced with challenges and I urge the best among us to prove just that.
And I don't mean the entertainers, the athletes, and certainly not the politicians but the common Filipino man and woman to go out of our way to help tourists out because they should always be considered as our visiting friends from other countries.
To the taxi drivers, let us not charge them extra for cab fares. Personally, when I take a cab and the driver doesn't ask me for extra and just gets me to where I need to go without any hassle, I have no qualms in giving an extra P30-50. Sa mga manggagantso, let us not take advantage of tourists thinking they wouldn’t know any better when they’re being scammed, and to the rest of us in general, let us not judge them based on stereotypes. For in the same manner, we wouldn't want the same things done to us. Lalo na at madamdamin tayo. Even in Mendoza's last acts, I could sense that sobra niyang dinamdam ang nangyari sa kaniya na may buong paniniwala niyang hindi niya ito dapat tinamo.
Let us show them the positive aspect of our being sensitive yet strong people. Let us show that this would be the last of its kind and we’ll do everything, and I mean everything, to make foreign guests safe and welcome in the Philippines. And more importantly, let us admit that a mistake was made here and that we value life above anything else.
Obviously, it wasn't just one side's fault: the media and the police should have coordinated what limited information needed to be broadcasted but alas, in the desire to get “the scoop”, all the necessary second-guessing is thrown aside; but alas, the police didn't have any ace up their sleeves to show--only that they weren’t properly trained to handle such situations.
Finger-pointing will not get us anywhere fast. The sooner those who are involved cooperate and those who are at fault show humility, the sooner we can all move past this. In the Philippines, unless level-headed characters prevail, the only thing we would only be good at is in stating the obvious.