May 24, 2019

Manila hostage drama – Police admit ‘defects’ in rescue

CSI Philippines - here's hoping they are better than their armed colleagues at problem solving

After the Manila hostage drama tragedy that claimed the lives of eight Chinese tourists the Philippine National Police (PNP) have admitted some “observations and defects” in the handling of the crisis and the chaotic rescue mission.

This has got to be a world first in a democracy where the people in charge are actually admitting to incompetence.

The hostage-taker, a sacked policeman who was angry at being dismissed, was killed by police in a ‘rescue’ mission that lasted over an hour. He was armed with an M-16 assault rifle, small firearms and grenades.

Retired police general Rodolfo Mendoza, interviewed by Reuters said “In an assault to rescue hostages and save lives, the operations should be swift and precise, It should be over in five minutes, but what we saw was comical.”

The PNP said its command group noted “some observations and defects” in handling the crisis, including “inadequate training and competence of assault team leader” and “inadequate capability, skills, equipment and planning of the assault team”.

Other issues included poor handling of hostage negotiations, side issues and events that agitated the hostage-taker, improper crowd control and a breakdown of media relations procedures in a hostage situation which was beamed live by global news networks.

None of that is going to look good in the annual performance review of the guy in charge. Was anything done well? This is a tragedy that did not need to end this way.

The new Philippines governement is facing major pressure to turn around an ailing economy. A massive campaign to create jobs by boosting tourism has been launched. Tourist numbers from China and Hong Kong have been up 24 percent on a year ago, providing one of the few brightspots in a country wracked with corruption and poverty.