Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rizal Park Hostage Taking: A Black Eye for the PNP and Phil. Tourism

Two black eyes in just one month. First, a ghastly video showing a Police Inspector torturing a robbery suspect. That video went the rounds of all international news agencies. That showed how cops now routinely torture alleged criminals and petty thieves. It was so gruesome, it created a buzz which now replaced the word "torture" with " Binayug". People are now using the word "nabayug" in place of the English word "torture".

And now this. And this one is a classic example of how to bungle a hostage negotiation.

Seven Hongkong nationals died after a dismissed cop went amuck and held hostage a bus-load of tourists yesterday. The almost 12-hour saga began when Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza took as his hostage around 25 Hongkong tourists shortly after 10 in the morning. A former decorated police officer, Mendoza wanted to use the bus as a platform to air his grievances. According to his last recorded message, he claims to have been unjustly dismissed from the service.

With his M-16 rifle, and a couple of rounds of ammo, Mendoza hitched a ride in Intramuros and then announced the hostage before a terrified crowd of tourists. He then ordered the bus driver to proceed to Luneta, infront of Quirino Grandstand. There, he positioned the bus and called on the police to refrain from entering the bus.

Mendoza aired his side before the media. He claims that the Office of the Ombusman summarily dismissed him from the service without proper procedures. He claims to have been a victim of an injustice. He was reportedly accused of a crime he did not commit. A chef of a hotel accused him of extortion. The chef never pursued the case, yet the Ombusman did and despite a lack of evidence against him, Mendoza was dismissed, forfeiting all his 20 years of service to the police force. Mendoza became a cop in 1981, shortly after finishing a B.S. Criminology course.

Police authorities tried to reason with him, but the negotiations fell, after a letter hand carried by the vice mayor Isko Moreno of Manila, purportedly from the Office of the Ombusman further incensed Mendoza. Mendoza claims that the letter was a fake, a ruse meant just to appease him.

Shortly after nightfall, the entire scenario changed, from promising to harrowing, as cops tried to arrest Mendoza's brother, another cop, Gregorio. Mendoza reportedly heard the commotion inside the bus and went about shooting the hostages. That prompted the SWAT team to encircle the bus.

Just under an hour, SWAT members moved in. A sniper shot Mendoza in the head. Five of the hostages were saved. Seven got killed.