Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Wish for World Peace

Killing was supposed to be a last resort. If Mendoza meant to take innocent lives, he didn't have to wait 10 hours to do it; neither would he have released the old lady, the mother and her children, a total of nine hostages.

Mendoza was not a terrorist. He was not a martyr. He didn't try to take over the world. He didn't want 100 billion dollars. His demand was clear: he wanted his shitty job back.

As the hostage situation unfolded, more than I feared for the Hong Kong tourists on the bus I was sympathizing with Mendoza. All I could think of was the desperation he must've felt losing his job and his pension at such an age, even if it were a consequence of his own wrongdoing; the self conflict he must've gone through as he deduced that threatening to kill a bunch of tourists was his only glimmer of hope; the gravity of his solemnity leading up to the morning of the incident well knowing that he could end up dead by sundown.

This wasn't a spontaneous act of some teenager who's spent so much time playing video games that he one day loses sight of what's real and what's not and decides to take a knife to his mother's neck. This was a 55-year-old veteran with a wife and two children whom he once worked as an honored police officer to support. He was not a cold-blooded killer. The incident was thought out. He made a conscious decision to wager all that he had left. He just failed to realize that the lives of 15 tourists weren't enough for him to use as a bargaining chip.

"Poor handling of the hostage negotiation", "inadequate capability, skills, equipment and planning of the assault team", "improper crowd control", "inadequate training and competence of assault team leader," and "non-compliance to media relations procedures in hostage situations" would have all been good excuses if the incident wasn't dragged on for 10 hours. With that amount of time, a new assault team with younger and stronger members could have been assembled; they could have received basic training on things to look out for in dealing with hostage situations (e.g. when kicking down a door, do it in one go); additional equipment could've been sourced; they could've called a friend.

Knowing squat about negotiation tactics, I would imagine the first few hours in a hostage situation to be the most critical in determining the outcome. Considering the lack of action taken by the PNP during those critical hours, was it really any surprise that Mendoza reportedly "went berserk" in the end? My guess is that Mendoza, who set out to negotiate, went from being eager to calm, then anxious, and finally distressed — much like anyone would in any situation where they've waited 10 hours for something they feel they rightly deserve. Why any law-enforcement or government authority would wait 10 hours with 15 innocent lives at stake and allow a hostage-taker to become distressed and berserk is anybody's guess. No attempt was made to leverage Mendoza's act of kindness and negotiate for the release of more hostages. No attempt was made to manipulate or at least control his emotions. No attempt was made to lure Mendoza near a window so the sniper who ended up taking him down with a single clean shot could have done so a lot sooner. No attempt was made to minimize casualties.

Whether Mendoza's ordered dismissal from the force was just or he was a helpless scapegoat, it really doesn't matter anymore. But I do look forward to seeing some gutsy investigative journalism on corruption in the PNP and the Philippine government.

I am very, very sorry for the deaths, injuries and trauma suffered by the Hong Kong victims. But I am more saddened by this world that could push someone so far over the edge that drastic measures become the only measures; a world in which one's desperations could be so grave that human lives — his own or others' — could lose all value. This is happening everyday all around the world. Mendoza's plan would've been the same had it been any other tour group that happened to had stopped at Rizal Park at that moment with a bus full of foreigners, in which case I doubt the Hong Kong people would have shown even comparable levels of compassion. This could've just easily have happened in China, with a Chinese gunman taking a group of foreigners hostage. Where would Hong Kong stand then?

Seriously, can anyone fathom the perversion of a world in which it's normal for someone who barely finished highschool in one part of the world to end up hiring a university graduate from another part of the world to do their dishes? I wish to stop hearing moronic comments like wanting to fire their domestic helpers because of this incident, or swearing never to visit "a place like the Philippines", or anything about a "nation of servants".

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