Friday, August 27, 2010

Why people think the hostage taking incident was a crisis in leadership

The Manila hostage-taking incident, says Catholic Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, was a trial which new President Benigno Aquino failed, and failed miserably. Bagaforo said, Aquino's failure lies in his mishandling of the situation, leading to what others now call, a crisis in leadership. There seems to be, says Rep. Carlos Padilla, an absence of leadership in government.

I beg to disagree.

The assault on the bus was an action only a strong Leader can implement. That assault came only after the confirmation that the hostage taker has taken the lives of some of the captives. That assault was necessary to save more lives.

Despite the lack of equipment, the SWAT team did their jobs. They assaulted the bus with nary protective cover to their bodies. They implemented their mission to the letter. They trapped the hostage taker at the front of the bus, as their planned to do, and hit him eight times with sniper fire. His death save the lives of seven other hostages. Under such extreme and unusual circumstances, the action of the SWAT was justified.

The only thing that really marred the entire hostage-taking drama was the order to arrest the brother of the hostage taker. That incident, according to the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Philippine Senate, changed the entire scenario, from an optimistic one to a gruesome tragedy.

And it turned out that Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, a half-Chinese, half-Filipino, was the one responsible for the fiasco. Lim, says former Manila Police District Chief Director Rodolfo Magtibay, ordered the untimely arrest of SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of the hostage taker. Shortly after the controversial order came bursts of fire from the bus, which instantaneously killed two to three hostages. The realization that the hostage taker had already taken the lives of his hostages necessitated the assault.

Was the order invalid? No. Lim, upon getting the info from the ground, did what he had to do--arrest the accomplice of the hostage taker.

The core of the issue is the proper time for the arrest. And this lay on the lap of the ground commander, which happened to be Magtibay. Magtibay should have exercised his discretion as a commander. That despite an active order which came from the Manila Mayor, Magtibay should have exercised his discretion, stayed his hand and arrested the accomplice after the incident. Sadly, Magtibay was more of a field trooper than a general.

Magtibay and Lim are some of the people responsible for this incident. And you guess it right, only Magtibay will surely get the gautlet this time. Lim is a strong political ally of the President, and despite what Noynoy said that those held responsible will surely pay, I doubt it if Noynoy has the gall to even order the suspension of Lim.

And I also doubt it if Noynoy would even suspend or cause the resignation of two of his communication managers, who, unfortunately, have not exhibited executive crisis management at all in their 50 plus days in office.

The current brouhaha has not only caused unrest and distress here in our country, but also caused an international scandal. Hongkong officials have warned the RP consulate in Hongkong to brace for more rallies as more and more Hongkongers feel angry and rage over the incident.

These things, should have been handled deftly by a professional communications man, someone with managerial expertise.

Carandang, unfortunately, is all style and no substance. Coloma, meanwhile, is just an eloquent speaker of the vernacular, but shows no other capability than the ability to deflect, and deflect in a wrong manner.

If Aquino continues this way, I would not be surprised that his administration would just last for a few more months or years. The actions of Aquino and his Cabinet members are weakening government insitutions, instead of strengthening the bureaucracy. This weakness, would surely be exploited by the enemies of the state.

This perception of Aquino as a weak leader, incapable of doing his job as the country's chief executive, would affect the entire government bureaucracy. This is the job of the communications team. Their lack of managerial experience, and their continued mishandling of the bureaucracy's enormous communications infrastructure would surely and definitely cause more harm than goodwill for government.

It is time for Aquino to make the ultimate sacrifice and fire his cabinet members who are inept and continues to mishandle his communications.