I am a Filipino – inheritor of a glorious past, hostage to the uncertain future.
-Carlos P. Romulo
Today’s over 12-hour hostage drama had a Filipino hostage taker and Chinese tourists as hostages. That is the scenario that meets the eye. But in reality, Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza is also a hostage victim. And he is not alone.
Mendoza, who claims to be innocent of the drug-related offenses hurled against him only wants to have his job back. Report says that he has reaped awards for his work in the police service but was recently dismissed for manhandling a suspect and for extortion. Mendoza is a hostage to his uncertain future.
Millions of Filipinos were hooked to their TV or radio monitors for the live coverage of this hostage crisis. Regular programming of local TV and radio stations were put on hold. Social media sites like Twitter for example had the Quirino Grandstand as a trending topic. International broadcast media have covered the incident from CNN, BBC and to New york Times. The world have become hostage of the unfolding drama.
Tomorrow, there would be a lot of explaining by government officials and commentaries from broadcast and social media. Just tonight, Hongkong Security Bureau had already issued a Black travel alert for the Philippines. Black means severe threat. In simple words, avoid all travel to the Philippines. Our tourism industry and our national reputation have become hostages to this unfortunate incident.
Many people in Twitter tonight, myself included were dismayed by the seemingly lack of police control of the situation (from cordoning off the area, treatment of Mendoza’s family members, use of wrong tools for the job at hand, lack of protective and proper gears- the list goes on). Not to mention the symptom of dysfunctionality in the redress system in our police force or of our justice system for that matter.
Tweets also abound on media’s lack of discernment over covering the incident via live TV, knowing fully well that the hostage taker is boarded on a tourist bus complete with access to television. How much of the police assault tactics have been compromised by the live coverage? Again, our media and police institutions found themselves hostaged to poverty of institutional maturity.
I remember what Randy David once wrote in his Public Lives column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Thankfully I have a copy of his compilation in Nation, Self and Citizenship: An Invitation to Philippine Sociology (2004) and I browsed through a page on Mass Media under the heading Nationhood and titled “Life as Television”. This is what he said:
Could it be that most of today’s hostage taking cases are really nothing but the poor man’s press conferences? That, in the final analysis, there is little that qualitatively separates the public disturbance created by Rolando Mendoza* from the press conference called by Kris Aquino*? Clearly, both involve the public baring of private pain. Both address the voyeuristic inclinations of an insatiable public. Both are meant to capture the widest attention.
In the end, we are all hostages- held involuntarily by a system that does not work.
*names were changed to reflect current events