What went wrong in the Quirino grand stand hostage taking crisis ?

Last Monday, August 23, 2010 was such a sad day. Twenty one Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and four Filipinos were held hostage in a bus. The 12 hours standoff ended in blood. 8 hostages were killed.

The hostage taker was Rolando Mendoza a disgruntled former police senior inspector who was fired from his job. Mendoza demanded to be reinstated and that his case is reviewed.

So what went wrong in the Quirino Grand stand hostage taking crisis ? Why did end up in such a mess? The mishandling of the hostage crisis has really put the Philippines in a bad standing with the international community.

Before I begin this post, let me bluntly say that I am no expert on this. I have not taken any courses on public safety, criminology, negotiating or anything else relating to hostage taking. Nor do I have the experience. I am no expert when it comes to this matter.

However despite this, it is very obvious that there are just plain and obvious things that should have been done last Monday that could have ended the hostage crisis peacefully. Even non experts such as me can come to this conclusion.  

1.) They should have never made the hostage taker angry – Veteran hostage negotiator, former Manila police chief and now judge, Jimmy Santiago who has successfully done several hostage negotiations in the past has said that it is very important that in hostage negotiations, the hostage taker should never be made angry. A hostage taker isn’t in his right mind anymore. Steps should be taken to ensure that the hostage taker is not annoyed or angered as it will make him resort to drastic measures.

I do not know what the police had in mind when they arrested the brother of Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza. Certainly this is a mistake. Everybody including experts agree that this is what triggered the hostage taker to shoot the hostages. If the police believe that the brother is an accessory to the crime, they should have dealt with the problem later. What they should have solved first is the current hostage situation.

2.) A news black out should have been implemented – The police should have considered the possibility that the hostage taker has been monitoring the news. The outcome would have been different if the hostage taker didn’t hear about what happened to his brother.

3.) Lack of leadership – Everything rises and falls on leadership. Where were the top brass of the Philippine National Police (PNP) during this time? Considering that this was an event of international significance no less than the chief of the National Capital Region or even the chief of the PNP should have been there to devote the entire resources of the command to the situation. Considering that a policeman is involved in the hostage taking, it is without doubt that he would reconsider his actions if the top command of the PNP was directly negotiating with him.

4.) Lack of resolve – Why didn’t the ground commander or the PNP leadership take advantage of opportunities? They certainly lack the resolved to do so.

Sometime in the afternoon, the hostage taker let out some hostages. He stood on the bus front door for several seconds and even had time to waive to the people around him. It was a very clean shot. If I am not mistaken they had two opportunities wherein the got a very clean shot. The ground commander should have given a go signal to the sniper to incapacitate him (not necessarily kill him) by shooting him on the legs and then had the SWAT storm the bus.

The PNP – SWAT cannot make an excuse that they cannot make a clean shot because they lack the necessary equipment. According to Wikipedia, the Marine Scout Sniper Riffle (MSSR) is used by the PNP SWAT .

Why was not the PNP – SAF (Special action force) utilized to handle this crisis? According to Wikipedia the PNP –SAF is trained by the US FBI the French RAID and the Israeli Ya’mam. The SAF is also more equipped than the ordinary PNP SWAT units. Although the SAF’s main concern is counter terrorism, the SAF can perform other tasks as the Chief PNP may direct.

PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Agrimero Cruz said that during the crisis, the SAF was already on stand by. Why didn’t they let the SAF handle the job when it became very obvious that after several minutes the SWAT were acting like a bunch of wet chicks huddling around the bus. This clearly shows the lack of resolve on the part of the PNP leadership.

5.) Lack of training & equipment – The SWAT team didn’t have the equipment to eave’s drop on what is happening inside the bus. That could have given them a tactical advantage. (Where were those bugging devices used during the elections?) Don’t they have micro snake like cameras, the ones we frequently see in the movies ?They didn’t have the equipment to make a quick entry to the windows or doors.  All they had was a sledge hammer.  Most of them didn’t even have radios !

Some SWAT members had equipment like the shield which can withstand bullets even from an M16. But even if they had shields, they were still very hesitant to storm the bus.

In the youtube video below you can observe how pathetic the SWAT team looked like when they tried to engage the bus. They seemed not to know what they are doing. A lot of them huddled in just one place. One blogger wrote that if the hostage taker had thrown a grenade at them when they were all at the back of the bus there would more that would have died.

Now compare the actions of the PNP – SWAT with the Serbian Special forces.

The conduct on how the assault was conducted was such a mess that the word “SWAT” has become a joke. SWAT is suppose to stand for “Special Weapons And Tactics” its suppose to represent an elite tactical unit that performs high risk operations that cannot be handled by regular police officers. Now it has become the butt of jokes. They say SWAT now stands for “Sana Wag Akong Tamaan” (I wish I’ll not be hit), “Super Wala Akong Training” (Super I have not training), “Sugod, Wait Atras Tago” (Forward, wait, backward, hide), “Sorry We Aren’t Trained” and the most ideal because of what has happened “Sorry We Acted Timidly.”

I don’t know if the SWAT team realized that their shameful, incompetent performance was shown worldwide! Now people all over the world will say, “If thats how the SWAT team in the Philippines performs, we wonder how the ordinary regular officers perform!.” If this problem isn’t solve then foreigners would better take a Royal Caribbean cruise than come to the Philippines.

But I don’t agree that Philippine Police are lacking in training. In fact they spend a lot of time in simulation training in times of crisis. They even use the latest simulation equipment for training. See for yourselves.

For an expert analysis you might want to read the  “Ten things the Philippines bus siege police got wrong” featured in the BBC website which is written by  Charles Shoebridge, a security analyst who has worked in counter-terrorism with the British Army and Scotland Yard.

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7 Responses to What went wrong in the Quirino grand stand hostage taking crisis ?

  1. positibo_na_sana says:

    …………ewan ko pero parang nalungkot ako ng mabasa ko ang blog nyo….kasi parang….i mean alam na nating lahat na nagkamali talaga sa paghandle ang mga pulis, swat team, or ang mga public officials etc…pero parang…..ewan ko…pero parang di na dapat pa nating ipagbando pa ang pangit na naganap…ewan ko pero para sa akin talaga mas makakatulong siguro sa bansa natin e yung pagbabalita, pagsusulat etc ng mga positibong bagay kesa sa mga negatibo kasi tayu-tayo rin naman maaapektuhan e dahil Pilipino tayo….ang magiging tingin sa atin ng ibang lahi ay nakadepende sa kung anu ang ipinapakita nating imahe sa buong mundo..kaya kung negatibo parati ang mababalitaan nila tungkol sa atin sa palagay nyo po ba labas tayo dun? hay….. sana ….sana…ang tanging hiling ko lang ay magkaisa na talaga ang mga Pilipino tungo sa ikauunlad ng bayang Pilipinas… Peace po tayo, napadaan lang ako…hihihihiihi

  2. zigfred says:

    positibo_na_sana: Appreciate your concern and comments but I believe there is nothing positive that can be written about this. The only way to turn this negative situation into a positive one is to face the problem and learn something from it. :-)

  3. Charrie says:

    Honestly, as an individual I got pissed off because those people tasked to handle the situation didn’t do it by the book. First and foremost to be considered is the safety of the hostages which as viewed was never the order of priority of those people expected to save same. In all hostage-taking drama that I’ve known, neutralizing the hostage-taker is no. 1 in the agenda, which if initially done could have prevented the carnage.

    There are lots of options open at the very start of the drama at 10:48AM when it just started but were blown away because of some problems in rendering decisions by those people concerned.

    Anyway, I’m just an ordinary citizen unschooled with the police-military protocol but I know what should be the order of the day.

    I just hope this won’t happen again, but if it does – just neutralize the hostage-taker at once and the drama will end!

    By the way, Sir Ziegfried, I find it very frustrating that when I called up seven (7) big National Bookstore Branches and told me that they run out of stock of your book ‘LEX PARETO NOTES’!

    They even told me that they have already ordered it months ago but up to now NO DELIVERY of said bestseller was effected! This situation is somewhat disturbing because as we all know its SEPTEMBER and this month is for the BARRISTERS to repeatedly revert back to your LEX PARETO NOTES!

    I even phoned CONANAN but they too is out of stock! To whom are we going to shout for HEEEEEEEEELP me find the four volumes of Lex Pareto notes!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry we have to really inform you that we are in dire need of these volumes. Hope you can do magic about this situation…for the BARRISTERS and law students like us!

    Have a good day!

  4. zigfred says:

    Charrie: Sorry for the unavailability of the Lex Pareto Notes. It seems that our publisher has miscalculated the forecast for the demand. Anyway, Volume IV is currently in print and will hopefully be available before the 4th Sunday. Sorry talaga ang maka habol lang for the bar exam in 2010 is only volume 4.

  5. Gee says:

    Guys pede po pahelp sa daratig na debate ko which is yung topic yung hostage taking na naganap ngayon and kailangan ko ipaglaban ang philippines pa help naman!!! need lang talga puro kasi negative comments and reations ang nakikita ko sa net kahit sa iba negative talga pls reply !!!asap

  6. zigfred says:

    Gee: You make me laugh. Kahit saan ka mag hanap wala kang mahanap na positive comment sa hostage crisis. It’s such a shameful and horrific event that the only positive thing we get out of the experience is to learn something from it.

  7. scout 65 says:

    maganda yung ginawa ng serbian special operation kasi wala naman threat sa buhay nila and iba yung bus na pinasok nila pero kung asa loob si mendoza baka di din nila magawa ang ganyan

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