Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bus hijack in Manila, Philippines, on Monday. My condolences to their families, and may the victims RIP.
The police force is under heavy criticism for their mismanagement during the incident; and the Filipino president is a PR disaster with his wickedly smiley face during a post-mortem press conference defending the cops while blaming the media for the live broadcast instead (which is partially a valid point).
The timeline of the incident becomes more apparent this afternoon following survivors’ account and new reports. I’m no SWAT or specialist, but there are a few obvious mistakes that could have turned the event around…
1. The sniper had multiple chance to take down the gunman. I know there are protocols that shots would not be fired when negotiation was undergoing nicely, technically it’s probably not a wrong call, but it appears a huge mistake now.
2. The gunman, an ex-police captain Rolando Mendoza, who lost his job following various accusations, was demanding to be reinstated. It’s reported that related agency had promised to review his case, but it wasn’t enough.
The hostage-taker must be in lunacy thinking he could get back his job just like that… well, most if not all hijackers are lunatics anyway, which makes people wonder if there’s necessity for the slightest mercy when dealing with them.
3. The turning point to the initially ‘peaceful’ situation was when the cops arrested the gunman’s brother – who earlier ‘helped’ in the negotiation process – in suspicion that he’s a complicit instead.
It’s generally believed that the arrest was made known to the gunman, either via live broadcast (there’s a TV on the bus) or a tip off by his nephew. The last thing you want during a hostage situation is to enrage the hostage-taker. The timing was all wrong… big mistake.
4. The first gunshots were heard at around 7.15pm. The cops fired at the tire shortly after to stop the bus from moving away; the bus driver escaped during the chaos claiming that the hostages were all dead, which was not the case.
I’m not sure if the cops would have reacted differently if they knew that it’s a false claim, but they begun their awful assault regardless.
A radio station revealed later that they received a call from Mendoza when the police began their assault, that he had killed (just) two and would kill more if they didn’t back off. The message didn’t reach the cops in time.
5. Many who watched the assault must be shocked at how incompetent the assault process were. Again, I’m not sure if it could be done any better… but it’s terrifying watching them taking more than half an hour to take down the gunman, by which time he could have killed off all the hostages if he wanted to.
6. Who killed the hostages? It’s still a puzzle. Many are suspecting that the cops might have directly killed one or two during the firing and hammering. At that point the cops might have thought that the hostages were all dead when the fact that the gunman was using the hostages as shields near the windows instead.
Despite the disastrous handling, I won’t overly blame the cop. I know this won’t go down well among the mourners, but it seems apparent that they are normal cops (not SWAT kind of special forces) with no experience (probably with not much training) and proper equipments to deal with this situation.
The cops might seem cowardly during the assault, but they were risking their lives nonetheless. Don’t forget, it’s the hijacker who should be held responsible for the deaths; don’t blame everything on the incompetent cops instead.
With references from Mingpao [Cn] and various news sources.