Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hostaging the Filipino people

THE Manila archbishop is right. The botched hostage rescue operation of the special forces of the Philippine National Police is, in the words of the Cardinal, “…really a black-eye…the worst thing that ever happened to us.”

There has been no other instance in Philippine history when other nationals, especially China and Hong Kong, reviled the country but this infamous hostage drama that claimed the lives of 8 helpless tourists who travelled far to see the beauty of the Philippines but encountered the beast instead.

The Philippines is replete with hostage and kidnapping incidents in season and out of season so that in one place somewhere in Mindanao one calls it the “local industry.” But none of them has earned so much anger from the international community—none that would make oversees Filipino workers deeply apprehensive of racial prejudice. In social networks, the hatred is so much and so loud for some days now since that fateful day on August 23.

Unlike the notorious cases of the Abu Sayyaf where negotiations and military maneuvers were extremely hard, this one should have been a piece of cake. Why, because, first, the hostage-taker was known to the police, he being one of them. Presumably they knew his temperament or, worse, his mental condition. Second, the police had all the clarity of a noon-day sun and the penetrability of a Quirino grandstand. Third, the incident happened right at the center of government where all the negotiating chips were readily available and abundant.

To have protracted the hostage drama for 12 hours smacked of paucity of strategies. That could have been shortened had the police jammed the area of electronic signals to isolate the target from TV or Radio frequencies and thereby make him incommunicado from anybody except the negotiators. Ironically, the hostage taker seemed to have been more aware of the perimeter than the hundreds of the Special Forces on the ground because of his easy access to the media.

Incompetence, mismanagement and obvious lack of tactical resources were the perfect condiments that doomed the hostage rescue operations. Not surprisingly enough, this equation has been bred by years of corruption, negligence and politics in both local and national governance. While everybody is blaming everybody, the ultimate culprit really is bad governance. There is no amount of police training or modernizing of military hardware that will ever guarantee the safety and peace of both local and foreign nationals unless Malacanang will stand up to trail-blaze a political will and execute an exemplary governance.

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