Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Doling Out the Blame

A damning report has come out from the Philippine government about the August 23 hostage taking that left eight Hong Kongers dead.

It squarely put the blame on 12 people and three media outlets, making them liable for the botched rescue attempt.

"This report is part of the justice to be given to the victims... This is a manifestation of the concrete actions we have taken to render justice to all the victims of the tragedy," said Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

Only 61 pages of the 84-page report were released, omitting the conclusions on accountability, recommendations, highlights and epilogue until Aquino decides on how to act on the report. Strange, as one would think those would need to be made public in order for the public to understand the president's next steps and decisions.

While the report claims the seven tourists and guide were killed by hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza, Hong Kong officials seem unconvinced. A statement from the office of Chief Executive Donald Tsang said: "The report admits that the causes of death of the eight victims and the causes of injury of the seven others need to be further ascertained. Therefore, final conclusions have yet to be drawn. We expect the Philippine authorities to step up their efforts to complete the work as soon as possible."

The report outlines in chilling detail the events and criticises the "total lack of genuinely serious and well-planned out negotiation strategy" and the "inefficient, disorganised and stalled assault", saying these were all critical mistakes that led to the tragic end of the stand-off.

Some of the errors include Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim failing to properly activate the crisis management committee and designate sub-groups to coordinate intelligence gathering, conduct a psychological assessment of Mendoza and manage the media. The authorities also didn't take his demands seriously, as Mendoza was sacked for alleged corruption and wanted to be reinstated.

Hostage negotiators also should not have included Mendoza's brother and policeman Gregorio in the negotiations, as Mendoza became agitated after talking to his sibling and fired a warning shot. After Gregorio was arrested by police, Mendoza began shooting.

Another critical error was ground commander Rodolfo Magtibay leaving his command post to eat, which led in creating "a vacuum in command or decision-makers. This resulted in the inability of those present to handle crisis events as they unfolded," the report says.

Senior police officials were also criticised in not implementing a presidential order that the Philippine National Police Special Action Force be deployed for the assault. Instead, the local police SWAT team were used and failed miserably.

With the release of this report, many Hong Kong tour operators are probably going to cancel future tours to the Philippines, as this clearly shows incompetence on the part of Philippine authorities in handling such a serious incident.

Where does this leave Hong Kong people in terms of holiday options? Demonstrations have flared up again in Bangkok, leaving destinations like Bali, Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea welcoming more business.

When will the authorities realize that security can't be taken lightly, no matter if it is domestic or international tourists. Perception drives opinion, which determines where tourist dollars go.

1 comment:

  1. this is one of the reasons why i don't favor travel to underdeveloped countries.