Legal Ignorance: So Not Bliss

It’s been almost two weeks since the hostage-taking incident, staged by former police officer Rolando Mendoza, at the Quirino Grandstand occurred. However, the issue is still far from losing attention. People are still waiting for its real conclusion while the police forces are still doing investigations. China is still waiting for a sound and believable result before allowing the Philippines’ high-level delegation to enter their country.

At the same time, the approval rating of Pres. Noynoy Aquino continues to go down. People have been criticizing his actions during the tragic day: not answering calls, seemingly hiding. People are saying that he could have done something so as not to lead the event to a tragic end.

For the last few days, I have been questioning those who are questioning the president as to what he could have possibly done in a military operation. Apparently, I have been wrong.

I have learned from high school that the President of the Republic of the Philippines is also recognized as the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines.

But my opening lecture this morning on the Philippine Constitution this morning taught me what exactly being a commander-in-chief means. I was very wrong in my understanding as to how much power this vests on a person.

Maybe I was just too naive, but, apparently, Pres. Aquino could’ve simply talked to the hostage taker and try to have a compromise with him for the release of the hostages. It should not have been a wonder why the hostage-taker thought of the ombudsman’s letter as trash.

But I don’t have anything against Pres. Aquino. Maybe, like I was, he didn’t know how much power he had in his hands – which can be a good thing. In the first place, he did not want to be president. Or so he said. Just to quote my professor, “He knew it in himself that he was not ready to be president.”

Of course, Filipinos have that certain trait of being captivated by fame and judging people simply according to lineage.

I can’t blame, however, blame Pres. Aquino for not knowing the extent of his powers. Besides, it’s a given that he wasn’t able to do much while he was in the senate. Given that, we cannot possibly expect him to know more than enough.

One thing, though: he needs to do his homework.

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Of Vows, Transparency, and Tactics

We did vow transparency.” – Noynoy Aquino, President of the Republic of the Philippines

That was what the president said in response to being questioned about not ordering a media blackout.

I say that the president was well-meaning but I also believe that he is taking the term in a very unrealistic and impractical way. Transparency does not mean giving out information as it happens. Or you may say that that is how I believe it to be so. If it were so, and he would want to keep on his vows, he would have to air everything, every transaction, every meeting, in the government as they happen. And it would just be impossible.

However, I am also not of the opinion that a media blackout would have been helpful. As has been reported, he had access to a TV. If the president had ordered a media blackout, I believe, it would only have infuriated the hostage-taker, Rolando Mendoza, and there may not have been a single survivor – to mean, the hostage-taker could have killed all who were still in the bus but himself.

I am not one who knows a good deal about tactics. Though, I do believe, as many will agree with me, that the police forces that responded to the situation could have done better.

The negotiation failed miserably – that’s a given. But what happened after the negotiations did not have to happen that way.

A very evident mistake would be one on the tear gas. No, I don’t believe that they didn’t have to use it. But I do believe that it was stupid for them not to think of preparing gas masks if they intended to gas the bus. Did they think that they would be immune to its effects while expecting that the hostage-taker would suffer?

While they are saying that only the snipers fired any shots during the incident, I cannot help but think that some of the bullets that hit some of the tourists are from the police force. And even if it’s true that it’s just the snipers, there’s also a chance that those bullets from the snipers hit a victim given that they were shooting while it was still too dark inside the bus.

The media could have also done better. They knew that the hostage-taker had access to the TV, still they gave a real-time coverage of the event complete with descriptive commentaries.

Yes, the police was not able to control them but they should’ve known better and have been more responsible.

Crowd control was very bad. The affair was hardly over and onlookers have already started to swarm the tour bus. And the police officers were not able to stop them.

As I’ve said, I believe that many will agree with me that the police force didn’t respond well. It was not a display of competence. They might have even shown that the criminals can fear them even less.

Yes, they did kill the suspect but, still they were bested.

On a final note, a believe that the Hong Kong government did a rather extreme response by telling its people to “avoid travelling to the Philippines.” We all know that what happened was very bad and we all regret that it happened that way. But unless it was proven that the hostage-taker, Rolando Mendoza, was part of an organized crime group, we can still say that it was an isolated case.