LIKE most people, I was practically glued to the television set Monday night, watching with growing interest, deep concern and, eventually, horror and frustration, the event that unfolded at the Quirino Grandstand.
Global media captured how the Manila’s police assaulted the bus and how they, after an hour of embarrassing themselves before a worldwide audience, finally managed to breach the vehicle and end the crisis and end Rolando Mendoza.
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I respect and agree with the decision not to immediately utilize lethal force. Based on information available to the ground commanders at that time, there was no indication that the ordeal would turn bloody.
That, however, did not preclude them from calling up a force that will be tasked to raid the bus and to have that force plan and train for the task at some nearby secure location while negotiations are pursued in earnest.
That way, if the negotiation does turn south, as it did in this case, that force is not only ready to be called upon but it will come prepared and decisive, armed with the right armaments, equipment and tactics.
Unfair. It is not fair to criticize the operatives who handled the breaching attempt.
Although, without a doubt, they did embarrass themselves in front of the rest of the world and eroded, in an hour, whatever confidence the international community had in the Philippine’s law enforcement capacity over the years.
We cannot second-guess what a law enforcement officer decided to do at a critical incident based on the 20-20 vision of hindsight. We have to look at things from his perspective and only with information known to him at that time.
But breaching a non-moving vehicle is a textbook scenario all special law enforcement units like Manila’s Swat are supposedly trained for. I know that for a fact because Cebu City’s Swat team includes this in their training.
In a simulation held here in Cebu City by a group of military simulation enthusiasts some years ago, Swat teams and special units from the Navy and the Army competed with each other on who could breach a bus the fastest.
Thus, how Monday’s incident ended in the way it did, betrays failure beyond that of the men we saw drenched in rain and trying to sledgehammer the windows of a bus. It is failure at a higher and at a deeper level.
“I think the PNP has to go back to basics,” said retired police colonel Nonilo Poliquit, erstwhile head of the Firearms and Explosives Division of what used to be the PNP Regional Command (Recom) 7, on Facebook.
“The assault was made too soon; the planning, was there any? The execution was like, what’s next? If the ballistic result gets shown, I’m sure there was friendly fire,” Levi Lopez, a certified security professional, responded.
Priorities. The Police High Command, as the demigods of Camp Crame like to call themselves, has in the past been criticized for the purchase of rifles made expensive by features that aren’t at all necessary in engagements.
Oh how much training the ordinary grunt would have been given had the millions been spent on mere expedient equipment but with proper training, practice ammunition and range time.
Had that been so, maybe we could have escaped the embarrassment of being subject to travel bans not only by Hong Kong but by six other countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.
We could have been spared comments such as those found in chinasmack.com, including one from ???? that, if Google’s translation is accurate, means all people from Venice should dance, who said: “It’s over, they’re all dead. The Filipino monkeys are all idiots.”
The media has also been blamed for giving a blow-by-blow account of what happened, including developments from the police side, which critics say gave hostage-taker Mendoza unnecessary Intel.
Yes, no, who’s to say? News blackouts confuse and isolate a target. But equipment that jams broadcast signals over a given area works just as fine. It isn’t fair to blame one’s deficiency on somebody else’s enthusiasm.