By BENJIE OLIVEROS
It is shocking how a single hostage-taking incident has shook the country and exposed its problems and vulnerabilities, as well as the ineptness of government and police officials. The late Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza merely wanted to clear his name of corruption charges – by using unarguably condemnable means – but he ended up exposing the nation.
The hostage-taking incident revealed how deep-seated corruption is, and no amount of grandstanding and flowery speeches could effectively address it. Mendoza’s case – that of policemen extorting money from suspected criminals they are arresting – is not isolated. Stories of similar irregularities being committed by persons who are supposed to enforce the laws are regular fare for the media. Added to this, the ineptness and lack of training exhibited by the supposed elite crime fighting unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and their sore lack of basic equipment amplified how corruption has been plaguing the country’s police forces. The way the SWAT unit conducted the rescue operation is not idiotic, it is pathetic. The police tried to make up for the lack of training and equipment by employing brute force. This is best exemplified when the police, instead of tinkering with the built-in safety mechanism to unlock the bus door, tried to break it down by using sledgehammers then tried to pry it out by tying it to a police vehicle, which, of course, utterly failed.
Because the rescue operation has been so embarassingly bungled, nobody wants to take responsibility for it. The commander of the Manila Police District was sacked. He, in turn, is pointing to Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. Lim reportedly denied his involvement in the ground command. PNP director Jesus Versoza and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo also claim that they were not involved in the details of the operations. This passing of the buck has reached Malacañang. And what is Malacañang’s response? Pass the buck again. According to script, the army of spokespersons of President Benigno Aquino III claimed once again that the president need not know the details of operations and activities supposedly being led by lower officials; then President Aquino declared that those responsible for the bungling of the operations would be held accountable.
And now, Malacañang is blaming the previous Arroyo administration. While the Arroyo administration is the most hated and deemed as the most corrupt post-Martial Law government, the Aquino administration could not forever put the blame on it to escape its own accountabilities.
This is the folly of the “hands off policy” of President Benigno Aquino III. Nobody seems responsible, only scapegoats. President Aquino and his spokespersons should realize that the buck stops at the doorsteps of Malacañang. If the president chooses not to preside over addressing a potentially explosive situation such as the Rizal park hostage-taking, and it ended in a disaster, then it is responsible for it. Likewise, if President Aquino chooses to keep its hands off defining issues such as the Hacienda Luisita agrarian problem and the Philippine Airlines labor dispute, then he only has himself to blame if he, and his administration for that matter, are perceived to be favoring his family and big businessmen such as Lucio Tan, to the detriment of the interests of the working masses (his supposed boss).
President Aquino is also blaming the media for “agitating” the hostage taker Mendoza when the TV and radio networks broadcasted the arrest of the latter’s brother. While the media could have exercised prudence and held back its scoop and tabloid mentality, blaming it for the killing of hostages is entirely missing the point. The media merely broadcasted the patently wrong act of the police in manhandling Mendoza’s brother. State security forces such as the police and military are just so used to manhandling and torturing the people it arrests that it has become a knee jerk reaction and standard operating procedure for them.
The aftermath of tragic Rizal park hostage taking incident, on the other hand, once again revealed the vulnerability of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the need to solve the worsening unemployment problem in the country and rescind the government’s labor export policy. Hongkong is one of the main destinations of OFWs. Not only that, Hongkong is host to one of the most vulnerable sectors of OFWs: domestic helpers. A backlash on OFWs would, therefore, expose them more to violence on their persons and deprive them of their main source of livelihood. If not for the sore lack of gainful employment in the country and the consequent large number of OFWs in Hongkong, and in other parts of the world, the aftermath of the bungling of the Rizal park hostage-taking incident could have been contained.
In reviewing the handling of the Rizal park hostage-taking incident, the Aquino administration should not only look into the police operation part. More important are the deep-seated issues and the wrong policies and priorities that were exposed by the incident. Because in the final analysis, the Aquino administration would have to answer not only for what it did. It would have to account for whether or not it was able to address the more urgent and basic issues confronting Philippine society, and if it was able to work for the betterment of the lives of the majority of the Filipino people. It could not shirk its responsibilities. (Bulatlat.com)