what if

07 September 2010

i had been wondering how erap or villar or gibo or gordon would have handled the aug 23 hostage-taking, in contrast of course to the low-key laid-back wait-it-out style of the new prez.   and then i read this in facebook via leslie bocobo and, oo nga naman, why wonder about losers.  instead, what if FVR?   under his watch we, and the world, would have at the very least “witnessed cogent efforts to end it without bloodshed.”

My thoughts on the Quirino tragedy
by Rafael Alunan III

In answer to queries on what might have happened in FVR’s time had the Quirino tragedy taken place during his watch, here’s a probable picture recalling that, before his presidency, he was a former head of the national police (Phil. Constabulary), AFP Chief of Staff and Sec. of National Defense.

The Secretary of Interior and Local Government (SILG) and concurrently the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) Chair and National Committee on Anti-Hijacking and Terrorism (NACAHT) Chair, an intelligence exchange and crisis management body that only a few knew about, would play a key role.

Once known that a tourist bus was hijacked and foreign nationals held hostage, SILG would immediately notify FVR, adding that it was Live on global TV. He probably would have been aware already since his office monitors the news round-the-clock. He would have deemed it a national concern paving the entry of NACAHT.

FVR would instruct his crisis center in Malacanan manned by a joint AFP/PNP task force to coordinate with NACAHT. The National Security Adviser; DFA, DND, DOJ, DILG and Press Secretaries; and the President’s spokesman would be called to support the TF for the duration of the crisis. SILG would function as the Chief of the Office of Primary Responsibility to control the strategic play and keep FVR informed.

SILG would activate NACAHT, position it at the top floor of the Manila Hotel to gain a vantage view, and have it controlled by the Vice-Chair and concurrent DILG USEC for Peace and Order. He would likely invite the MMDA Chair and Mayor of Manila to join the PNP Chief, senior reps from the national government and other experts vital to the mission.Equipment that the venue didn’t have would be brought in to provide NACAHT a functioning crisis center on the ground.

An experienced and trustworthy ground commander (GC) to head the hostage rescue operations at the scene would be chosen next. He would quickly estimate the situation based on available intelligence, map out his strategy, draw up supporting plans and choose the personnel required to negotiate, disarm/disable or neutralize the hostage-taker while ensuring the hostages’ safety.

The GC would then assemble a potent hostage-rescue team (HRT) – negotiator/s; psychologist/s; crowd / perimeter control and SWAT teams – based on capability and track record. Crucial considerations for selection would be the need for continuous intelligence gathering, communication, coordination, thinking on the run, physical stamina and split second decisions, often under duress.

After NACAHT vets his strategy and plans, and obtains the TF’s concurrence, it would then be the GC’s play all the way. NACAHT would then become the GC’s advisory team and clearing house, breaking up into work shifts to monitor 24/7 to stay on top of the situation.

Should an unforeseen factor arise along the way that could jeopardize the mission or impact on the nation’s honor and integrity, NACAHT and the GC would quickly assess and process courses of action, choose the best options, and elevate to the TF for the President’s approval.

As soon as feasible, FVR would notify the Chinese Ambassador of the government’s efforts to ensure the safety of the hostages and its quick and peaceful resolution. He could graciously ask him and his police attache to advise the TF and NACAHT on the matter. He would also call the HK Administrator to keep him in the loop.

The President’s moves would be disclosed by his spokesman in a series of controlled press conferences, while the Press Secretary would brief the press about the rules of engagement in this delicate situation. A media pool would be organized to cover the event under the strict control of the GC to ensure that no punches are telegraphed unwittingly that could put the rescue mission at risk.

Regular feedback would be streaming to the TF from NACAHT. As commander-in-chief he could, if need be under extreme circumstances, intervene to order a freeze, to accelerate operations or modify strategies based on his appreciation of the dynamic situation. NACAHT would stay put in close proximity for quick communication and easy coordination until the job got done.

That was how FVR and his senior team could have likely handled the situation. The veterans who manned their battle stations and experienced harrowing situations would only be too willing to help by sharing a thing or two with the incumbents.

Enough said on that except for these personal observations:

* SILG Jesse Robredo had/has no command and control over the PNP; his Undersecretary does, on instructions of the President. That raises serious legal issues and complicates the system of public administration and governance.

* There was no functioningcrisis management committee (CMC) either at the national or at the local levels. An inexperienced GC was all alone to figure things out without professional CMC backing.

* The fraternal links of Manila Mayor Fred Lim, the ground commander, the HRT and the Mendoza brothers to the Manila Police Brotherhood, may have blurred logic, focus, priorities and dividing lines. The risk was the absence of check and balance, fanning laxity that led to tragedy.

* A cardinal rule is to never agitate the hostage-taker. They did. There were golden chances to disarm/disable Mendoza before he could inflict any harm. They didn’t take it. A functioning CMC in support of the GC should have persuaded the Ombudsman to issue a report clearing Mendoza (non-binding because it was obtained under duress). It didn’t.

That deception might have led him to give up at that stage. Then he could have been cuffed and charged for kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms and attempted murder; and locked away for good. It was worth a try, even if it failed, given his state of mind.

* The GC must never leave his post until the crisis is over. He did, on the invitation of the Mayor who got hungry. Instead of sending for food, they proceeded to a place that was not equipped to monitor the situation, thus, was nowhere near when Mendoza started killing.

* No one was thinking: of inserting a fiber optic camera to monitor the hostages and Mendoza; that Mendoza was monitoring from the bus’ radio-TV system and his cell phone, and was getting homicidal; of clamping down on the media that wanted to be part of the story instead of just reporting it.

* A professional team would have taken a minute or less to break-in, board, blastMendoza and secure the hostages. The PNP’s Special Action Force or Aviation Security Command would have been ideal, trained by the Australian SAS and Israel’s Yamam for close quarter battle (CQB). SAF was, in fact, on standby but never used.

Could a tragedy have been avoided in any case? Assuming the right components were in place with the right mindset, probably. With bad luck, maybe not, precious lives could have still been lost. But at least the world would have witnessed cogent efforts to end it without bloodshed, and the country’s honor as well as the people’s morale and self-esteem may not have taken such a beating.

I extend my deepest sympathies for the injured and sincerest condolences to the families of those who died. And for those who tried and failed, don’t despair; your fall might yet be your springboard to redemption. Just make it happen.

24 Responses to what if

  1. September 7, 2010 at 3:36 am
    baycas

    (Referenced from the transcript of RMN’s interview and the account of a hostage incident survivor.)

    Strikes that led to rage: (1) the Ombudsman’s unacceptable offer, (2) the negotiators’ lies, (3) the arrest and “manhandling” of the hostage-taker’s brother caught on national TV, and, the one that led to the killings, (4) the demands that were not INSTANTLY met.

    But what led him to start shooting was a phone call. He hung up and immediately took out his gun. “Bang!” The first shot killed the tour leader.
    – Lee Ying Chuen

    What if Michael Rogas already ended his interview when the negotiator is approaching the bus to hand over the Ombudsman’s letter? What if prudence took the better of him as a “journalist” on that instance of exclusive coverage? What if he stopped feeding his hunger for information or, perhaps, ceased to satisfy the public’s curiosity?

    What if Michael Rogas (and Erwin Tulfo) didn’t transform from interviewer to INSTANT negotiator?

    What if Rolando Mendoza wasn’t led to believe that all his INSTANT demands given to the INSTANT negotiators will be effectively relayed to the police and be conveniently granted? Instant demand like the snipers Rolando wants ordered to withdraw from their vantage point…

    MICHAEL: Okay naririnig po kayo ngayon sa pamamagitan ng RMN. Naririnig po kayo ng mga pulis, meron po ba kayong pakiusap dun sa mga sniper na sinasabi ninyo?

    What if there was no Strike 4?

    Rolando Mendoza, as he turned down the Ombudsman’s offer and as he found out Orlando Yebra and Romeo Salvador’s lies, could have been cut off from communicating his demands to the police because the negotiations already bogged down. Rolando is “twice” angry at that time. Rolando needed another one to trust…another one capable of conveying his demands to the proper authorities who will grant such personal wishes.

    What if Michael ended his conversation with Rolando at the resumption of Orlando’s negotiation?

    Would he send Orlando et al away or not? How would he be able to negotiate? Write notes again? How would he be able to get what he wanted without a right person to talk to?

    Considering Rolando sent the negotiators away and later watched on TV how the police “manhandled” his brother, who would he command to stop the “arrest” OR ELSE he sacrifices the lives of the two hostages in front of the bus? To whom will he give such ultimatum? Would one think he’ll start the murder spree without letting anyone know the reason for it?

    I believe he’ll be the one scrambling to undo what is happening and immediately talk to Orlando again…

    Instead of Michael and Erwin, the bogus negotiators, scrambling to get Rolando’s demands immediately to the police who has custody of Gregorio Mendoza, the brother.

    MICHAEL: ’Wag po kayong magpapaputok, Captain, Capt. Rolando Mendoza… Erwin, pakibilisan lamang ’yung ground commander.
    ERWIN: Ito, kinakausap ko na ’yung ground commander.
    MENDOZA: Ayan, ipinosas na. Kapag hindi nila pinakawalan ’yan, babarilin ko na ’to. Lalahatin ko na ’to. Iisa-isahin ko, sabihin mo.
    MICHAEL: Captain, Capt. Rolando Mendoza, tinutulungan na po namin kayo.
    MENDOZA: Wala, wala. Dinideridiretso nila.
    MICHAEL: Erwin, Erwin… Pakilapitan mismo ’yung pulis na may hawak.
    ERWIN: Sandali, sandali lang, ito, kakausapin mismo natin si ground commander.
    MICHAEL: ’Yung pulis mismo na may hawak.
    ERWIN: A, ano na ho bang kuwan, sagot natin sa…
    MENDOZA: Ayan, ayan. ’Pag umalis ’yang mobile na ’yan na kasama ang kapatid ko, babarilin ko ’yung nasa unahan.
    MICHAEL: Sandali po.
    MENDOZA: Babarilin ko na ’to lahat-lahat.
    MICHAEL: Captain, Capt. Rolando Mendoza…
    (Nagpaputok ng baril, iyakan at sigawan)

  2. September 7, 2010 at 3:37 am
    baycas
  3. September 7, 2010 at 6:02 am
    Mike H

    “Our problems now, in two or three years we can say that they are laughable when we recall that they were not that grave”
    — President Noynoy Aquino, Sept 5, 2010.

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100907-290867/Aquino-We-will-overcome-crisis

  4. September 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

    “Our problems now, in two or three years we can say that they are laughable when we recall that they were not that grave”
    — President Noynoy Aquino, Sept 5, 2010.

    No mistake is laughable if it involved death of innocent people.

    we do not commemorate tragedies such as 9/11 and columbine massacre to celebrate the events. We remember those who had perished and also remind us of the failure of the people who are supposed to prevent such things to happen. It is sad if we can laugh after looking back.

    we do not laugh at our ineptness that results into major major mistakes. Baldwin asked Ms. Philippines, “What is one big mistake that you have made in your life and what did you do to make it right?

    So how will they make it right?

  5. September 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

    “SILG Jesse Robredo had/has no command and control over the PNP; his Undersecretary does, on instructions of the President. That raises serious legal issues and complicates the system of public administration and governance.”

    when you messed up with the chain of command by by-passing the subordinate directly under your line of authority, you also messed up with the accountability and communication flow.

    Many times, this lack of concern about the hierarchical structure of an organization is the source of conflict, confusion, inaction and demoralization among the personnel.

    Organizational chart anyone?

  6. September 7, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    @baycas ;) napaka-synchronous naman ng comment mo with the airing of the RMN tapes sa DOJ investigation. napakalinaw na those live interviews with mendoza added greatly to mendoza’s agitation. the fact is, he was expecting instant immediate responses to his demands via RMN, as instant and immediate as his response to the ombudsman’s letter, his bro’s complaint re confiscated gun, and then watching his brother being arrested. tapos tanong pa nang tanong yung mike rogas at every crucial point: anong gagawin niyo ngayon, anong plano niyo ngayon, or something to that effect, in effect practically harassing the hostage-taker into taking action.

    so talaga, the rationale, na RMN just wanted to find out for us kung anong nangyayari sa loob ng bus after so many hours, ang tagal na kasing walang nakikita at walang nangyayari…. heh. i think the key is for the media to suspend what is actually (in the scoop/ratings game) self-service–the priority is to serve the cause of the victims in a hostage-taking–and media taking any role, without express endorsement of the ground commander and without close coordination with the negotiators, is not to be brooked.

    there is no doubt. kung walang media, naiba ang takbo ng mga pangyayari. di ba a reinstatement document was on the way? and then again maybe pumalpak din lang yon kasi walang letterhead, hayyy… and then again, who knows…

  7. September 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Tanungin mo sa media: kung halimbaway isa sa mga hostages e asawa mo, o kaya anak mo, o kaibigan mo, will you have acted as you did, in the name of fucking press freedom? Huss, sigurado yan, sila pa mismo magmakaawa sa kapwa reporter… remember the ces drilon hostage drama?

    Ewan, its a continuing hangover from the Marcos years, now perverted to make media more powerful and omnipotent than they ever deserve.

  8. September 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    be that as it may, media should be treated as it is: a guard dog who bites. let him loose outside your gate and bites the neighbor, it’s your fault…

  9. September 8, 2010 at 12:25 am
    joji

    angie,
    Even under FVR watch, with the media’s irresponsible and selective behavior to interfere in hostage negotiation, what if???? will just be another bad luck in the making…all in the name of press freedom for what? if they can impose gag order in Ces Drilon case, why this time they participated to broadcast it without thinking of the safety of the Chinese hostages. I blame both media and the ground commander for not controlling his men in agitating Mendoza to fire the warning shot and ignoring his demands. Maybe FVR could make a difference but bad luck is bad luck and no one can predict such tragedy will happen given the same scenario.

  10. September 8, 2010 at 12:29 am
    manuelbuencamino

    @angela,

    Maria Ressa’s tweet shows the kind of mentality prevalent in media: “If only one network does it, you would just switch to another. Needed gov’t to ask for blackout from all. We would’ve cooperated.”

    Sinisi pa ang gobyerno. Has she ever heard of the term “self-restraint”?

    And this is what she said during a forum at the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines last August 28, Friday : “We would have been criticized by the viewers or what viewers would have done is switch stations.”

    Ayun mas mahalaga ang ratings kaysa sa buhay ng tao.

    Iisa ang takbo ng utak ni Maria Ressa, Erwin Tulfo, at RMN. Ratings is the end all and be all of modern journalists so news is whatever is sensational. Today’s editors use Nielsen ratings rather than substance to evaluate what can be aired or published.

  11. September 8, 2010 at 5:02 am
    baycas

    Angela,

    I’m afraid Nene Pimentel, as counsel for RMN, and the RMN people do not share our viewpoint. Will the IIRC panel also find some degree of culpability on the part of RMN as we see it?

    —–

    Last week, I was able to reconstruct the culminating events from Arnold Clavio’s UB interview with Orlando Yebra (on GMAnews video archive), the RMN transcript, the GMA7 video footage (on Youtube), and the survivor’s tale of the incident.

    I posted my “stories” here, here, and here.

  12. September 8, 2010 at 5:03 am
    baycas

    In “The blame game is in full blast,” PDI’s Neal Cruz wrote on August 27:

    ABS-CBN’s Maria Ressa explained that they refrained from broadcasting the arrest of Gregorio Mendoza until after the hostage crisis was over. It was therefore not their broadcast that the hostage-taker saw.

    Unfortunately, Rolando is a “kapuso” (and didn’t have to switch channel). He even asked for Susan Enriquez and, all along, he and the driver thought they were talking with Mike Enriquez not Michael Rogas.

    Mike Erogas?”

  13. September 9, 2010 at 12:00 am
    niknok

    What if FVR? This question is full of insight and very smart. It’s like asking What if FPJ? What if we’re not a third world country? What if pinoys don’t have crab mentality? What if we contribute rather than critisize? What if Marcos? What if Spiderman?

    Raffy Alunan is another loser who asks stupid questions and provide more stupid answers.

  14. September 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    @niknok: I thought the answers were self-serving PR. Not different from self-appointed NGOs, celebrity read-alongs, media op-eds in other media fora, etc.

  15. September 10, 2010 at 2:38 am
    niknok

    niknok on August 25th, 2010 at 8:43 am
    Diplomatic protocol dictates leader of a nation talks only to his counterpart. A governor of a province can not just call the president of another country.

    Hongkong is not a nation but a chinese territory. Thang should have used the proper channel. That’s what diplomats are for.

    “Hindi naman siguro pwede na sasagutin natin lahat ng tatawag na nagsasabing sila ay ganitong tao. Pero palagay ko po i-liken natin kung meron po tayong governors ng Pilipinas na biglang magde-demand na kausapin si President Obama o kaya si Hu Jintao, hindi naman din siguro papayagan ng either the US government or the Chinese government na ganun-ganun lang po ‘yun ‘no,” P-Noy said.

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/09/10/aquino-reveals-receiving-insulting-letter-hk

    Either it took them more than two weeks to read Angela’s blogs…or I was right all along. Tsang is too upset to observe the diplomatic protocol and blamed our president over the media for not taking his calls.

  16. September 10, 2010 at 4:53 am
    niknok

    The reason I suspected malacanang is reading Angela’s Blogs, check out my comments and P-Noy’s statements during the special panel interview 2 weeks later from these sites

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/09/10/aquino-i-should-have-taken-more-active-role-crisis

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/09/10/aquino-reveals-receiving-insulting-letter-hk

    niknok on August 24th, 2010 at 3:39 am
    …The letter from the ombudsman and the arrest of the sibling aired on national tv that excited the hostage taker is simply not the responsibility of the president. Unless of course we expect him to micromanage all government functions.

    “…It goes without saying that I cannot be managing every department on a day-to-day basis all the time. That will not serve the interest of the people best,” he said.

    No need to micro-manage
    Asked if he should have been more “hands on” in managing the situation, the President said he agreed with the position to take a low profile during the negotiations so as not to embolden the hostage-taker to make outrageous demands.

    He said he gave the ground commander and the local crisis committee a free hand since he did not want to interfere in their decisions on how best to resolve the crisis.

    “I did come in but I did not micro-manage. I did not want to lessen the capability of the scene commanders to make their own decisions,” he said.

    niknok on August 24th, 2010 at 10:00 am
    A full blown investigation would reveal minute-by-minute account of what transpired. Lessons can be learned from this…

    Lessons learned
    Aquino said the hostage crisis will lead to various reforms in crisis management protocols and the training of police forces tasked to handle such situations.

    …He also said that the hostage incident will be used to help the government prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.

    niknok on August 24th, 2010 at 1:11 pm
    …But I find it hard to absorb that he should call all the “shots” of strictly police matters. We should leave it to trained professionals. And if something goes terribly wrong, then an investigation should be conducted to find out how to improve the system.

    niknok on August 25th, 2010 at 1:38 am
    It’s called “Monday Morning Quarter back”. Every sunday we watched football games and if our team lost, we talked about what the players or the coaches could have done to win the game. It’s easy for us to second guess but it won’t change the outcome of the game.

    “I can stay there, have my picture taken by everybody and show to the public that I am so concerned about this. But at the same time, I will impede the abilities and the efficiencies that the people who are trained to handle these things can do and that was a conscious decision. Don’t second-guess them. Don’t be at their backs and really try to be a back-seat driver. It would have not helped if someone was looking over their shoulders,” he said.

    That being said, either Malacanang is monitoring Angela’s blogs or we got the same wavelength.

  17. September 10, 2010 at 6:36 am

    “That being said, either Malacanang is monitoring Angela’s blogs or we got the same wavelength.”

    Don’t bring your canned applause for yourself. MLQ3, Lacierda and Carandang were bloggers before they got those fancy titles and they know what blogs to read in order to get an honest opinion about the issue. They won’t depend so much on the “mutual admiration club” blogs which sing halleujah even it is a requiem mass.

  18. September 10, 2010 at 10:58 am
    niknok

    “…pero instead makipag-away saiyo, iiwanan ko na naman itong website na ito kagaya ng ginawa ko kay MLQ3 at FV”

    If a person can’t stand by his words, what does it say about his credibility?

    I noticed the uncanny resemblance of my comments and pnoy’s statements made after 2 weeks (better late than never). If they indeed got it from this blog site, then i’m proud to have contributed something to this gov’t despite my years of california residency.

    “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans” – Manuel Quezon

  19. September 10, 2010 at 11:14 am
    GabbyD

    @niknok

    sobra ka naman niknok. i’m sure its entirely possible that Pnoy got his arguments independently of anyone else.

  20. September 10, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “If a person can’t stand by his words, what does it say about his credibility?”

    well hanggang may taong bilib sa sarili nila, lumalabas ang aking pangil.

    sobrang bilib mo naman sa sarili mo.

    communications group must be browsing the internet. you know what read, collect, collate and digest mean?

  21. September 10, 2010 at 11:44 am
    niknok

    @ Gabby

    Oo naman. Kaya nga what if…anything is possible diba?

    Here in cali, Chinese products are under scrutiny. From lead-based paint, substandard and hazardous materials. They are under the suspicion of intellectual property infringement and piracy. Between China and the philippines…sa Pinoy pa rin ako.

    Our govt dropped the ball on hostage crisis and has apologized for it. Filipinos were killed in China and no apologies are offered.

    No president is perfect and no govt is perfect…let them critisize us but lay off from kicking your own people.

  22. September 10, 2010 at 11:57 am
    niknok

    “sobrang bilib mo naman sa sarili mo.”

    Bilib ako sa Pinoy…hindi sa ibang lahi. Ayan tagalog na yan ha.

    Anyways, I don’t want to flood Angela’s blog with unnecessary comments from answering your juvinile argument. You can email me personally if it would make you feel better. I believe Angela has our email addresses. Maybe she could hook us up.

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