Beyond Fashion: What went wrong?

10:52 PM

I believe that fashion can be a tool for social, cultural and political commentary. Thus, my blog segment, "Beyond Fashion" uses fashion to attract and words to impact.

Let me give my unsolicited advice to Malacaňang and the Philippine National Police:

"If you have to choose between life and death, I beg you to always choose LIFE."

(If one tries not to over-think about it, it’s basically just common sense.)

I purposefully wore black for this day, because I too, mourn for the country.


Dismissed police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza held under siege a bus-load of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong in Manila around 9:00 AM yesterday. He demanded to be reinstated into police service, and to restore his retirement benefits while asserting that he was "wrongly accused" and "unjustly convicted" of robbery and extortion.

According to reports, it was a directive from the “top” (insinuating Malacaňang) to not give in to the hostage-taker’s demands. A person’s life doesn’t cost anything. No matter at what angle we look at it, NOTHING could ever outweigh its worth. So why in the first place did the government have second thoughts about giving in if it meant concluding everything peacefully?

Had they chosen life, this would be my optimistic table:

Some may argue that a case like this shouldn’t be reduced in such simplicity. But it looked like Mendoza was very much willing to talk things over. Reports said that the hostage-taking drama was going very smoothly during the afternoon. Every now and then, he released the kids and elderly – a sign that he was not a merciless criminal as he seemed him to be.

Reality Bites. Because they chose death:

Negotiation: A moro-moro

For the rest of the day, the police should have tried harder to negotiate. There was no upper ranking official present to lead the dialogue prompting Mendoza to ask for the media, so he could publicly announce his pleas and be heard by higher authorities. What was Mendoza about to say that threatened the police so much, that they forbid him to speak to the media? As hours passed, as the incident remained unsolved, Mendoza’s state of mind changed along with it.

Police incompetence

Judge Jimmy Santiago believes there were lapses on the side of PNP. First and foremost, they should have kept Mendoza calm all the time. From being a kind and considerate captor, he went out of control when he saw on TV that his brother Gregorio was being forcefully arrested.

Assuming that his brother was indeed an accomplice, the police should have kept in mind their training about psychology-zing a captor. In a phone interview, Santiago said that PNP should know better: the family truly affects a suspect's sanity which is at that moment, hanging by a thread.

When the bus driver escaped and declared that everyone was dead, it was no brainer his statement needed verification. It was very stupid of the policemen to just attack and shoot the bus without thinking. As it turned out, in one of the survivor's account, several hostages who were fine were killed by the bullets of the police assault team (SWAT) contrary to the lies of some police officials, saying that Mendoza used the hostages as human shield.

Even police's attack strategy was very lame and pathetic. They couldn't even open a goddamn bus door. Incessantly, they threw tear gases without wearing masks and goggles which made it difficult for them to go inside. It took more than 30 minutes before the operation was cleared which should (theoretically) happen quickly in a few minutes.

Where was President Aquino?

In a presscon, Aquino said he monitored and met up with DILG executives. Isn’t it weird to find the President “watching and still in a meeting” when evidently, the situation was being handled poorly?

Why was he consistently distancing himself to matters like this? He seemed emotionally detached, without sense of urgency and became relevant ONLY when everything was over and done. With just one word, an order, he could have changed the entire thing. But all we could do now is regret this event that stamped negatively in world history.

Media to blame?

In defense, ABS-CBN reporter Julius Babaw said the police didn't give them any guidelines on how they should report the news and to be fair, they have practiced self regulation.

For President Aquino, if it weren't for the live TV footage of Mendoza's brother arrest, PNP could have negotiated a solution. Maria Ressa, head of ABS-CBN news and public affairs, refuted saying that in an event like this, it is a journalist's instinct to keep rolling and chronicle the event instead of turning off the camera. Why? Because they never know what (significant) might happen next.

Who am I to pinpoint?

I've always believed in accountability. And this responsibility obviously, lies in the hands of the law enforcers of the government. Their job's priority is to protect and to save the innocent; second only to killing or arresting the suspect. With millions of taxes spent on them, they are expected to have adequate training and proper equipment for crises similar to this.

Chief Leocadio Santiago said that (and I quote) what he (Mendoza) wanted was impossible, we couldn't do it at an instant. I SAY: Nothing is impossible when we're talking about LIVES. And as I said earlier, with just one word, the President, in his power and authority, can change the phase of world history.

Sadly, the government pointed the blame to different directions: the media, Gregorio Mendoza (the brother) and is now putting the bus driver in question. Manila Mayor Lim insensitively mocked the driver's capacity to flee by picking the cuffs' lock; which according to him is unbelievable (without considering the driver's feelings). They never owned up for the unsuccessful handling of the hostage-taking crisis.

Before the hostage-taking

Rolando Mendoza was a policeman with 17 service medals, a commendation for meritorious service and one of the Ten Outstanding Police Officers in the Philippines. In 2008, he was charged with robbery and extortion amounting to PHP 200,000.00 and was immediately dismissed out of police service without any retirement benefits and privilege to serve any government agency.

I find it rather weird and unthinkable that after decades of respectable service, he would endanger his name and image, including his passion and means of living for such a measly amount. He claimed that he was only a fall-guy to the higher authorities of his police department, not to mention, underwent a hasty trial which appeared to be "unfair". Knowing as a matter-of-fact how dirty politics is here in the Philippines and the foul reputation of the justice system here in the country, yes I believe there is basis in Mendoza's claims.

If he is a true-blooded filthy and crooked cop like what others accuse him to be, why would he be after his small amount of retirement benefits if he has probably corrupted about millions of pesos by the time he was dismissed? Money wouldn't seem to be a problem at all, right? Reporters even visited the hostage-taker's home and discovered him living in a very small and humble provincial house reiterating the possibility that maybe he is indeed innocent after all.

A cloud of doubt thus accumulate. A question of whether he is or not truly guilty arises for until his last breath, he says he is innocent. I'm not saying he did the right thing. I know how it is to have someone dear to you shot in the head (my brother). I totally feel for the loss of the victims and their families. That's why again, I hold the authorities accountable for such tragedy.

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  1. This is a great post, Melai! I was asleep the whole time the hostage taking was happening and was only able to see news about it today (or make it yesterday since it's past 4am already. haha). at first instinct, i would have blamed the media for the non-stop newsfeeds but upon reading various analysis write-ups, i agree with you that the police should be blamed. it's a shame that this had to happen. once again, the whole world hates us.


  2. We share the same sentiments. Oo andun na madaming namatay sa hostage taking pero yung nangyari kay Mendoza, sumasalamin lang sa kawalan ng hustisya dito sa Pilipinas. Mendoza wouldnt be that desperate kung wala talaga siyang gustong ipaglaban.

    Hay. Ang panget na naman ng image ng Pilipinas.

    A very well written piece Melai, I hope many reads this. :)

  3. Galing nito, Melai! I blogged about this din. Nadudurog pa din ang puso ko hanggang ngayon. It's like I'm experiencing ten heartbreaks all at the same time. I also have an entry about this. Kung may time ka, sana basahin mo. :)

  4. This is brutally sad. They did not give Mendoza a fair trial and investigation. Imagine how slow the justice system is, it took them two years to make a decision WITHOUT proper investigation. It's like they just took the easy way out of the whole situation thinking it wouldn't be such a big deal. It's like the country he served with all his heart betrayed him and left him with nothing.

    During the hostage, it seemed like the police were just spit-balling ideas on how to handle the situation, thus the broken windows, fired windshield and "rope" trick. I found it very irresponsible of them to shoot the bus without knowledge/confirmation if the hostages were still alive. I honestly think they might be responsible for some of the deaths inside the bus.

    I think the government/Pres. Aquino should take immediate action on what to do next. Who to reprimand and remove from certain positions. To let HK know that we ARE doing something about it. Everything is taking so slow.

    There goes the Philippines.

  5. +I can't blame the bus driver if he said what he said. Syempre, there was a rain of bullets so halo-halo na yung kaba and takot and his will to escape. Oh, and I think miracle na lang na he was able to use his nail cutter to free himself.

    +I think PNoy was more hands-on though compared to Arroyo, who, I think, just left her subordinates to handle the hostage situation in 2007. Kaso, I saw on TV he was smiling when he visited the location. And binigyan ata yun ng meaning ng mga Chinese. My brother saw some Chinese news channel that emphasized the smiling president. But I figured hindi naman lahat ng tao na galit ay mukhang galit. 'Cause if I remember correctly, he was half-smiling too nung pinapagalitan niya yung PAGASA circa Typhoon Basyang's rage.

    +Oh well, kahit dati pa we know we have incompetent authorities. Now, that's really something we need to improve alongside health and education and whatnot and we Filipinos know that ever since. Yun nga lang, ang daling sabihin, hirap gawin since kailangan ng maraming resources (which usually just go to corrupt officials and/or useless projects) and, of course, tulungan.

  6. This event truly made me VERY angry. Jeez, what big jokes we must be to other people.

    Very well-said, Melai. Love this post.

  7. we have the same sentiments Melai, it was even hard for me after the day it happened...I mean I was about to cover my face for the entire day at work, knowing that I am a Filipino...but in the end...I still am proud to be one...

    just so sad that the President did not handles this seriously or whatever his excuses is...

    what a sad day!!!


  8. this is such a great read. i share every opinion of yours.
    and here in germany, our swat team and our government are all laughing stock. so embarassing. :(

  9. I appreciate this long and thoroughly researched article you wrote, Mel!

    I tend to disagree that the hostage taker should have been given concessions though. I think he pretty much shot himself in the foot by going against the law and putting innocent lives in danger like that. How can he ever be considered for public service after doing such a selfish act? It was the wrong move from the start. I understand that perhaps some injustice was done to him however he should never have resorted to hostage taking. Though perhaps he could have been placated in some way then arrest him afterwards. It's a complicated situation!

    I do agree that media blackout was crucial as well as swifter actions and negotiations. (I have been grappling with the idea of whether Media should be blamed or not, myself) The fumbling of the police crew really showed their lack of preparation (My dad said that they should have asked the bus owners what the windows were made off-then they wouldn't have had to hammer at it numerous times!).

    But we made a mistake, it was embarrassing. Let's just try to move forward but not forget. I hope actions are taken to be more well-prepared in the future. THanks for bringing this topic up, Mel :)

    Bea from A plus B


I appreciate anything you have to say. Thanks for dropping by. It means so much to me. Love, Melai

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