WHEN I reached home, my children were glued on television, watching the tragic hostage drama at the historic Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park. Television news celebrities were all having a heyday in the live coverage, which stretched through prime time in television programming.
The networks sacrificed their commercials, in the name of public service, just to provide a blow-by-blow account of the hostage-taking of Hong Kong tourists by Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, the bemedalled policeman-turned villain, for having been convicted for extortion and human rights violation.
The 12-hour drama was also covered live by international news networks like CNN and BBC, and I can say they were more professional in their handling of the news unlike our locals who kept on annotating with a bunch of unnecessary opinions in the heat of the negotiations.
What really turned out to be an amateurish stance of our supposedly celebrated newscasters was compensated by enterprising TV news cameramen and their reporters and radio reporters who provided us a good insight of the unfolding drama.
But what turned the entire episode bloody was the arrest of Mendoza’s brother, purportedly on suspicion that he was an accessory to the hostage-taking. This floored everyone who thought that the longer the negotiations, the higher the chances that the former senior inspector would yield. The rest is bloody history.
Unfortunately, television can be a violent medium, and whoever is the boss or the so-called celebrities controlling the tempo of the coverage invariably affect the kind of reporting. It was a good thing that veteran newscaster Mike Enriquez was actually at the scene, managing to provide us a sense of what the incident was all about.
But since it has become international news, the tragedy may not end with the death of Mendoza after being hit by sniper’s bullet in the head, along with eight of the original passengers of the tourist bus, many of them Hong Kong tourists.
When interviewed live by the Hong Kong-based CNN, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno stammered and could only say tourists were still welcome, citing the incident as unusual and a recurrence of the bloody mess was remote. But that day, a Korean pastor was also murdered, a tragic news that would definitely affect the Aquino government’s plan to boost tourism in this country and open up the skies.
The immediate effect is the ban on travel to the Philippines by Hong Kong residents and the possible negative advisories from a number of other countries.
We were also witness to the fumbles of the police in their attempt to initially rescue the victims, using crude ways of breaking through the bus. The assault was so embarrassing that we could hardly defend why we are spending millions of pesos to train our lawmen when they all they have are guts and their guns.
The incident was really humiliating. It showed how a Third World country like the Philippines cannot effectively protect tourists, with lawmen unprepared to handle hostage-taking incidents in spite of the fact that we have had decades of experience in fighting local terrorists and gangs of kidnappers.
Then we have the mob of ususeros who just freely roamed around the crime scene after the incident. The police just forgot that they have to cordon off the place because they were still retrieving the bodies. The place just simply looked messy, and that was seen by people worldwide.
Again, we are saying that this wake-up call for our authorities to shape up or continue bungling law and order in this country. Heads can roll anytime but that will not solve the problem. Mendoza is dead, but we continue to suffer from the embarrassment that happened.