A time to lead

Former Police Officer Rolando Mendoza hijacks bus in Manila
Former Police Officer Rolando Mendoza hijacks bus in Manila

On August 23, 2010, Leung Song-yi (Jessie) attempted to crawl from the eight row of Hong Thai tour bus to reach her injured older brother.  Shots fired and Jessie took bullets to her chest, causing lung injuries, rib and spine fractures.  Her final moments, authorities have yet to determine exactly how.

Jessie was only fourteen years old.  She was the youngest victim in the murderous rampage of Rolando Mendoza, the man who held Jessie, her family and fellow tourists.

Leung Song-yi is survived by her 43 year old mother, Ng Yau-woon, and a comatose 18 year old brother, Leung Song-xue (Jason).

Leung Song-yi’s 58 year old father, Leung Kam-wing (Ken), her 21 year old Leung Chung-see also died in that horrible tragedy.

Leung Song-yi’s death alongside her family’s and fellow tourist sparked a diplomatic row, not to mention controversy for the Aquino government in the Philippines.

The Incident Investigation and Review Committee’s report is hardly complete, by their own admission, but it is enough to determine with reasonable understanding the chain of events the led to the deaths of all those people.

The IIRC report was clear.

Mendoza’s was premeditated and the brother whom police apprehended was in on the plan.  Their misguided attempt caused the breakdown of law and justice.  The Ombudsman had failed to act, had failed to justly respond to his case.  The Deputy Ombudsman was even accused by Mendoza as the root cause of his plight.  Mendoza accused Deputy Ombudsman Gonzalez of extorting money from him in an attempt to turn the disgraced officer’s case.

The IIRC discovered the culpability of the Media in the event.  The breakdown of ethics, and journalistic rules added to an already untenable situation.

The IIRC discovered Mayor Alfredo Lim, who was suppose to activate the Crisis Management Committee— failed to act.  His lapses in judgement as the Chairman of the CMC triggered the chain of events that led to the failure to save lives.  There was already a manual in place prior to the incident.  Standard Operating Procedure in cases such as this hostage situation is for the head of the local government to convene the Crisis Management Committee.

Lim justified his actions that as General Magtibay was already on scene and acting as ground commander and that he had given instructions to Magtibay to secure the area and to inform him of requirements was in effect convening the Crisis Management Committee.  That may be the case, yet Lim had failed to determine if the other aspects of the committee were activated.

An intelligence group was not organized.  There was no point person for media.  There was no psychologist.  Other integral parts of the CMC like medical support and fire fighting are all under the Mayor.

It was Lim who ordered the arrest of the brother— an incident that added to an already untenable situation.

This breakdown in the chain of command or rather— the lack of any sort of chain of command from the beginning is perhaps the chief reason why the hostage taking failed.

Lim was inept and derelict in his duties, the report was quite obvious in that.

What’s scary is that the IIRC discovered the President had issued orders that the Special Action Force— better trained and better armed was to be used in the situation.  Those orders were at best ignored.

The scary part is the discovery that the Command-in-Chief gave an order and it was not followed.  If the President would issue orders and those orders would not be obeyed by the chain of command, there is something wrong in our hierarchy of leadership.    The weird part is that Aquino didn’t fire his Police commanders right after the incident even knowing his orders were ignored.

There is a reason for a chain of command, and this is an instant when it was ignored lives were lost.

While the media needs to be taken to task about their disregard for their ethics and journalistic principles, while the Mayor Lim should bear the blunt of blame for the failure of the incident, there must be an accounting for the failure of the Police to obey their commander-in-chief.

In many ways, it is sadly fitting that the bloodshed that happened on August 23, 2010 occurred near the spot where the national hero, Jose Rizal was shot, and just recently, President Aquino himself took his oath of Office.  It is a baptism in blood.

Power shouldn’t be gripped tightly, Mister President, you have gripped it too loosely.  There is a time for introspection and a time to make an accounting.  We are past that now.  Mister President, crack the whip!  This is a time to lead.  We the People, need you to lead.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • Joe, exactly.

    The IIRC finding reveal that it was one mess on top off another another that led to the murders of those tourists. The absence of command in the crucial first hours. The lack of psychological analysis all throughout the episode, and yes— as you mentioned it wasn’t really smart to have arrested that brother at that point.

    I just hope the nation learns from this and we do better.

  • Crisp article. The succinct rendering of three key flaws gets right to the point. I have opined elsewhere that Philippine culture seems to me, an outsider, to be light on compassion and heavy on ego. It also seems to be stuck in a kind of 1950’s attitude about psychology and studies of the mind. Know anybody who will admit to having visited a therapist to understand his or her emotions better? My guess is no, for the stigma attached is not good. Therein lies the barrier to finding a kinder, gentler Philippines . . . the need to remain macho . . . the willingness to remain ignorant as to the whys and wherefores of certain inter-personal behaviors.

    Arresting that dude, his brother, was not so smart, eh? All ego . . .