The aftermath of the tragic bus hostage crisis in Manila on August 23,2010 has brought a lot of people worldwide writing about their individual assessments, personal reactions and criticism on how the situation was handled by the authorities.
Below is not an assessment but rather my account as an observer of the incident and the apparent shortcomings of the team handling the crisis in a different format. Its a simple cause and effect list of events or situations which will lead any observer to plainly see what’s basically needed, discarded, and enforced in a hostage crisis.
Root Cause: The Ombudsman, a judicial body for cases involving government workers, is taking too long to resolve an appeal sought by Sr. Inspector Romulo Mendoza to clear his name from a questionable conviction in an extortion case.
Effect: A desperate Sr. Inspector Mendoza wanting to draw immediate attention to facilitate the resolution of his case.
Note: Sr. Inspector Mendoza was a decorated police officer with 17 citations for his exemplary performance.
- Cause: Initially successful negotiations of a trained negotiatior with hostage taker
- Effect: A total of 9 hostages were freed unharmed
- Cause: Sealed letter of from the Office of the ombudsman promising a review of the hostage taker’s case
- Effect: Not acceptable to the hostage taker and agitated him.
- Cause: Uncontrolled or unrestrained media coverage for the hostage taking incident
- Effect: Up-to-date information being forecasted worldwide
- Cause: Availability of onboard TV and radio in the bus
- Effect: Hostage taker knows exactly what is happening outside the bus
- Cause: Inappropriate handling of the arrest of the brother of the hostage taker, Gregorio Mendoza, in front of Media.
- Effect: This angered the hostage taker making him totally lose control and harming or shooting his hostages
- Cause: Traumatized driver who escaped from the bus shouting “they are all dead”
- Effect: Start of assault of SWAT on the bus
- Cause: Poor assessment of available crisis response assault teams
- Effect: A better equipped assault team was not deployed
- Cause: Inadequate tactical planning
- Effect: Prolonged SWAT assault lasted about 90 minutes.
- Cause: Still unrestrained media coverage during actual assault and still operational onboard TV
- Effect: The hostage taker is one step ahead of the assault teams actions.
- Cause: No specialized SWAT communication equipment
- Effect: SWAT officers were shouting commands to each other, ergo, hostage taker knows what they will do.
- Cause: SWAT team dont have gas masks
- Effect: SWAT officers’ level of capability in assaulting bus were hampered by their own tear gas.
- Cause: No thermal sensitive equipment or infrared cameras.
- Effect: Assault team cannot pinpoint the location of the hostage taker
- Cause: Lack of ground information support during assault
- Effect: Assault team cannot open the bus door. It can be opened from the outside.
- Cause: Lack of special purpose explosives
- Effect: Door or windows could have been been destroyed to provide access to SWAT easily.
- Cause: Poor enforcement of crowd control
- Effect: After declaring the coast is clear, people swarmed toward the bus making it more difficult to assist the survivors or injured
- Cause: Too many shots fired
- Effect: Inquiry for possible accidental shooting of the hostages by the rescuing team
- Cause: 8 Chinese hostages killed and 7 injured.
- Effect: Enraged Chinese citizens in Hong Kong and blacklisting of Philippines as a tourist destination by Hong Kong government.
- Cause: Overall unsatisfactory handling of Crisis
- Effect: Negative reaction worldwide!
Bottomline expected effect:The incident in itself should be the driver for the Philippines for Self-improvement. Government should ensure that a similar incident shall not happen again. It should invest in equipment and more training of crisis response teams. Also, the Government should be able to ensure the safety of all tourists and all Philippine residents as well.