Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Official Hostage Taking Story: It Just Keeps Getting Weirder

I have refrained from commenting about Aug. 23 hostage tragedy because so much has been said about it already that I wasn't sure what more I could add.  But as recent developments have come to light, I've decided to put in my two cents.

According to the Sept. 8 edition of the "Philippine Daily Inquirer", a respected local newspaper, witnesses said that the hostage taker, Rolando Mendoza,  arrived by car at 9:30 at the point where, according to the bus driver and a passenger, he commandeered the bus 15 minutes later. However —and here's the bizarre part— the SWAT team was alerted at 9:07 a.m and was deployed at 9:15.  This was of course long before the perpetrator seized the bus or even showed up at spot where he hijacked the vehicle. In other words, as the PDI said, the police were "tipped off" ahead of the event.

The attorney representing the SWAT team claims that this sequence time line  was erroneously reported as the result of an honest mistake and will be corrected, but the police stand by the original time that they were first notified of the event.  If that's the case,  it means at least one other person was in on the crime and for whatever reason dropped the dime on Mendoza.  Yet this wrinkle only surfaced today in the course of a hearing held by the committee investigating the takeover.

Now here's something else that's not clear to me, and I've not yet seen this point mentioned elsewhere:  Had Mendoza already targeted the particular tour bus that he hijacked?  If so, how did he know that the bus was going to be at the place, Fort Santiago, where he seized it?  Inasmuch as this vehicle was a tour bus and not a public utility transport, it didn't follow a schedule. Alternatively, perhaps it's a popular spot for tour buses and Mendoza was aware of that and instead happened to pick this one at random?

Also, when the PDI said Mendoza alighted from his car at the hijack location, it didn't say from which side, the passenger or driver's seat.  If the former, then does this mean that someone drove him to there?  If so, whoever that person was had to know what Mendoza was up to as he was already decked out in fatigues and carrying a rifle.  And if there was another person in the car, a likely suspect is his brother who later made a scene and was taken away by police at the location where the bus finally wound up at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.  When Mendoza saw his brother being dragged away, this supposedly set him off into the shooting frenzy that left eight passengers dead plus Mendoza.himself who was shot supposedly by police when they stormed the bus.

What apparently drove Mendoza to carry out the hijacking was hopelessness over his allegedly wrongful employment termination, attendant loss of retirement benefits, and subsequent denial of due process regarding his appeal of the dismissal. Perhaps out of desperation he figured that taking hostages was the only way that he could get the authorities to listen to him.  I certainly can't condone Mendoza's actions.   Yet I do understand how a perceived injustice that has cost a person his livelihood and reputation can cause him to become unhinged and lash out irrationally.

The possibility that Mendoza originally had a companion with him, the time line discrepancy , the unprofessional manner in which the police assaulted the bus to free the hostages, and the conditions under which Mendoza lost his job are just a few of the matters that I hope will be covered in the the panel's report which is due for release later this month.  IMO,  the information that's been made available thus far contains too many  anomalies. May truth not wind up as the ninth victim.


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

His lady-friend drove him to Intramuros. Her name is Rose. They apparently came all the way from Batangas and even drove on a day on which they could not drive in Manila due to their license plate number.

She apparently did not know his intentions for him to hijack a bus, but instead told her, he would give back his M-16 rifle at the police base in Taguig City.

Talk about the wrong location, but he could just have said, they would drive to Intramuros and have breakfast, which they did, I believe.

When they arrived at Intramuros, he asked her to leave the car and have a walk. He then got out and asked even a lady on the street if this bus he was looking at goes to the Cemetery of the Heros.

But he took a bus from a Chinese travel agency, which I think was randomly taken.

It was again foreigners who were the target. I am a little suspicious about why he took a bus full of foreigners and not locals.

His main mission was to make a concrete point "by killing", and be known "as a hero". That is why he took foreigners hostage, as foreigners are not that important here and it will be broadcasted live around the whole world. It was already baked in the oven. Nobody could have prevented him from doing this on this day.

Even though, I don't feel a lesser foreigner, as many people in the Philippines are "crazy" about foreigners, and we get lots of time VIP service at many locations. Mmmmm...

Secular Guy said...

Spot on, Kano. I googled a few key words in your response and got

in search results. This site shows Rose was indeed a key player and further confirms the rest of much of your reply.

Obviously, I was unaware of this this story and didn't see it reported in the broadsheets, which is strange because I read various newspapers in the course of the week. One would think there would be ongoing references to it. Nevertheless, I guess that's no excuse that I missed it, and assuming it's a credible account, I apologize for letting it get by me.

As for foreigners receiving special treatment the hijacking shows that this special attention can cut both ways. It's times like that when I prefer to be just another face in the crowd.

Kano said...

One thing that the travel agency did not realize is writing their Chinese lettering on the bus was a bad thing for them. It went against them, as the hijacker knew, this was a foreign bus with probably foreigners. Never, ever show foreigner labels on your car or on anything else. That is why most of the cars here have tinted windows. You don't want to be seen here.

During the hostage taking event, there were even two Filipino photographers who volunteered being a hostage in exchange for two Chinese hostages to be released. Talk about braveness. They were later also released, though.

We also saw a small group of police officers getting into the bus through the window of the bus at the back, and later got shot at, even with one police officer being hurt in the event of gunfire from the hostage-taker. That takes courage.

Secular Guy said...

The local press has been castigated for their allegedly irresponsible coverage of the event. Too bad that there was little publicity about those photographers. (I for one wasn't aware of their offer.)

The performance by the police was likewise a mixed bag of clumsiness and courage.