The Quirino Granstand Hostage Taking
I really didn’t want to make any blogs or cite my opinion on the issue until I am confident of my facts and that I am not going to make any false allegations. The issue is already sensitive enough as it is and really there’s just been so many people making comments and citing their opinions on the subject without really knowing what actually transpired. Let us not forget that during these incidences none of us were present at the scene and that things may seem a lot different when viewed from the safety of our living room.
I was watching the events too as it unfolds, we were monitoring everything on the television from 10:30 AM until its completion at around 8:30 PM on August 23, 2010.
One of our officemate told us to open the TV because there was a hostage taking going on. And so we did, honestly, none of us expected the ordeal to last that long and we really thought it would be resolved peacefully like with the previous ones or at the very least it would be resolved with the perpetrator dead or taken into custody and there would be no lost of lives among the victims. Let us admit that this has happened before and so far we came out of it decidedly on top. Besides, things look quite bright as the hostage-taker, Police Senior Inspector Mendoza started freeing hostages. By 12 noon of that day he had already freed 9 hostages, so things really looked on the up and up. We were actually saying that he really didn’t intend to kill anyone and that he just wanted to be heard. The sympathy was really all on him, and the blame was placed on the OMBUDSMAN.
By mid afternoon his brother Senior Police Officer 4 Gregorio Mendoza arrived on the scene and tried to approach the bus with his gun tucked on his belt. The police took him aside, confiscated his gun and then he proceeded to cooperate with the police on the scene. By 5:00 PM food was again brought to the bus for the remaining hostages. At that time we all went home and monitored what was going from home. I was watching the scenes with my sister, who was a psychologists and I remember her saying things are starting to look bleat. I told her that Captain Mendoza really didn’t intend to kill anyone, and she told me the negotiations had been going on for far too long. She also said that at this point the hostage taker would be getting weary and irritable. I didn’t believe her.
Then we saw the negotiators approach the bus once more together with the brother of the hostage-taker, they talked for sometime and then we saw the negotiators started to walk away from the bus with the brother of Capt. Mendoza. Then we saw a single shot erupted from one of the windows of the bus, the negotiators looked back once and seemingly calm continued to walk away. After that the next scene we saw was Capt. Mendoza’s brother being arrested, his relatives were surrounding him, shouting and crying, refusing to let him go. At this point, the situation became tense. Watching from the safety of our home was no comfort as the gravity of what was happening hit you right in the face. The police knew that the bus in which the hostage taker was in had a TV and that he can see everything as it was being broadcast live on national TV. SPO4 Gregorio Mendoza was forcibly taken in custody by the police and the thing we heard were shots being fired from inside the bus. Then the bus started to move and shots were fired to disable the tires so it can’t go anywhere. The camera fanned out and we saw the driver of the bus jumped from one of the windows and ran towards the police line. The commentator on the TV said that the driver was saying that everyone was already dead inside the bus.
Then the SWAT team came towards the bus, obviously ill-equipped and yet not at all lacking in courage. They tried to enter the bus through the windows and the door but hostage taker kept firing. At this point the tension was so high even within the safety of our living room, probably due to the distance of the media from the bus we cannot hear anything but the exchange of gun shots. It seemed that the bus was eerily quiet; it truly seemed that what the driver said was true. But still the SWAT team moved cautiously, they didn’t storm the bus. To us at the time it seemed incompetent that they should move so slow, but upon further thinking, I realized they were trying to protect themselves and they didn’t rain bullets on the bus hoping that somehow some of the victims were still alive.
It almost feels like it took forever for the whole scene to end. There were intermittent gun shots being fired, tear gases were thrown inside the bus and the final, like a coup d’ gras’ one of the snipers got a shot and took it. Police Senior Inspector Mendoza was shot in the head, blowing his brains out and ended the ordeal. For the longest time, nothing happened the SWAT had difficulty entering the bus – they didn’t have gas masks – and then finally one by one the hostages were taken out from the bus. Some remarkably were still alive! I remember breaking down with my sister as we found out that some of the hostages were alive.
All this time we were wondering where were the high ranking officials? Who was in charge? And why was the MPD left on their own? I mean, if a high ranking Philippine National Police official or a high ranking government official was on the scene why aren’t they coming out. Honestly, it would have given both the hostage taker and the public a sense of reassurance that things are being done and that they’re really taking the matter seriously. There was an earlier announcement that the President was monitoring the events so why didn’t he come out to reassure the nation that he was on top of the situation? Where was he when HK Chief Executive Tsang wanted to talk to him? If it were true that he was not informed about the call from Chief Executive Tsang, then they should sack the personnel who failed to inform him about a very important call which could have somehow eased the anguish of the Chinese officials. Pnoy needs a lesson on diplomacy and international relations.
As for the police, of the SWAT unit that assaulted the bus I really cannot say much except that I admire their courage. Really I cannot blame those who approached the bus because they were little more than pawns in a chess game. They were simply following orders by someone higher. This is something that the public must understand – that as much as the police are thinking individuals they are also soldiers. The PNP is a paramilitary organization; it is civilian in nature and military in practice. They are less than soldiers and yet not complete civilian; they are still bound to their commander’s orders and to refuse would be deemed as insubordination. Maybe the public will not, and maybe even the courts will not but their commanding officers and the rest of the organization will see it that way.
The police had already admitted they made several lapses in judgment during the incident, lapses that may have caused 8 people their lives, but at least they have owned up to their fault. As for the government officials, when are they going to admit to their faults. This is not solely the police’s faults, the government officials have some very big mistakes to own up too as well. Even if the people in power try to deny it the Philippines is still a presidential form of government, where the people including all agencies within its scope look up for guidance and direction from the president of the country. Let us admit that in terms of government we are still not as mature as the US, the people still expect the president to oversee all things – like a father or a mother for that matter. They need to see someone running the show and that’s how they feel reassured. We have a very different culture from the US and our officials should not use that excuse of how the government should run in order to save face for their lack of control and supervision on the incident.
I admit as some point we need to move forward and move towards where the different units of the government work independently but towards a common goal. But that is not yet in place and at times like these someone needs to take control especially as it was quite obvious during the incident that no one except for the hostage taker was in control. In my personal opinion and I am not imposing this on anyone, but for me, I believe that Pnoy should really reconsider the people he had appointed into the different areas of the government, because honestly they’re not being effective. Imagine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government saying during the Senate inquiry that this was the problem that they inherited from the previous administration, this was the sort of police force they inherited? Wow! Well, this problem came up during their time therefore it is their problem – not the previous administration! They should have been able to solve this, they have all the sources to do so but instead they decided to focus on finger pointing and narrowing down their view on the lack of training and equipment of the police. But there were so many other things they could have done, and should have done.
In conclusion, I would like to appeal first to our Chinese neighbors, please forgive us for the lapses made by our government officials. But also please keep in mind that not all Filipinos are bad, that we have worked together for many years and no one wanted this thing to happen. We are sorry that your people got dragged into our problems but please also know that we are as outraged about what happened as you are. Please do not take your anger on the Filipinos working for and with you, they have nothing to do with this incident except that we were born Filipinos and that was something they cannot help.
And to my fellow Filipinos, please stop the finger pointing and demoralizing our race further. Isn’t enough that the world also thinks so low of us that we have to join them in lashing out at our own? Instead, of pointing a finger think what you can do as an individual to improve our lot, think what you can do for your people instead of saving face and pointing at others.