Thursday, 26 August 2010

More Revelations of Missteps

There is more anger and sorrow in Hong Kong after the tragic deaths of eight tourists in the hostage-taking incident in Manila.

The bodies have been flown back here, the families have started burying their loved ones.

Some people have written angry or sad letters to the editor, asking why this happened or demanding to know why the Philippine police force made so many mistakes. There have even been a few reported cases of employers sacking their Filipino maids apparently in a fit of frustration after seeing the tragedy unfold on live television.

While the Hong Kong government asked its Philippine counterpart about a joint investigation, the latter refused, making it difficult for Hong Kong investigators to get information first hand. They will only be able to work with the results of the findings of the Philippine investigation.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino promised a full investigation, saying, "What happened should not happen again. Someone failed, someone will pay."

But he stopped short of blaming the police. In the meantime, police chief Rodolfo Magtibay and four leaders of the assult team have taken a leave of absence pending the investigation.

The Philippine government has had no choice but to admit there were fatal missteps made that led to the bloody end. These included the lack of training in dealing with these types of situations as well as inferior equipment, or even lacked of items considered basic by other police forces.

Magtibay told a senate hearing that he gave the order to storm the bus after hearing shots when negotiations broke down with the hostage taker, a former policeman.

He also "honestly believed" assurances by his assault team leader that they were prepared and were carrying the right equipment for the operation.

However, Senator Miguel Zubiri pointed out the police SWAT team did not have ladders or bus window blasters, and the rope they used to try to pry open the bus door easily snapped.

Another police officer testified the team did not have a "flash-bang grenade", a standard weapon used by police to stun a hostage taker.

"It was Band-Aid solutions as we went along, but the element of surprise had already gone," Zubiri said. "If you are a foreigner, you will no longer come to visit the Philippines because you have seen in the news that the police are not adequately trained."

He is right.

And the best thing the Philippine government can do right now is be completely transparent about this investigation, to allow Hong Kong investigators to join in the investigation so that the truth can come out.

From there, the police force can use the results of the findings to rebuild itself, shake off its bad image and start fresh with better training and equipment.

That is the only way for the Philippines to rebuild credibility now and to regain the confidence of its citizens and foreigners.

But that's only if the Philippine government wants to do so.

1 comment:

  1. it is sad to see the phillipinos take the scene of a tragedy as a tourist spot. the policemen and young girls are taking pictures in front of the tour bus. may be life is so cheap there this type of killing happens every day.