Whose head should roll? Citizens chime in on hostage crisis


Posted at Sep 01 2010 09:41 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2010 05:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - What lessons have Filipinos learned from the recent August 23 hostage-taking incident in Rizal Park in Manila?

This question and many others were among those discussed during a special edition of ANC's "Strictly Politics: Vox Populi" on Tuesday.

Ten people, namely Doctor Yves Aquino, ROCK Ed’s Gang Badoy, former congressman Ruffy Biazon, cultural activist Carlos Celdran, lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles, security consultant Ace Esmeralda, journalist-blogger Inday Espina-Varona, educator Lex Ledesma, social media consultant Carlo Ople, and Anvil honorary member George Siy fearlessly voiced out the nation’s uproar in one of its trying moments.

All 10 guests decried the lack of crisis management during the hostage-taking incident last week.

Esmeralda, a security and asset protection professional, said the worst time to have a crisis in the Philippines is the first 60 days of a new administration because the nation is "still changing its leaders and crisis managers."
Biazon said no crisis management plan was activated during the Manila hostage crisis despite previous instances of hostage-taking in the country. He cited the kidnapping of 3 Red Cross workers in Jolo, Sulu last year, which also involved foreigners. 

Celdran, meanwhile, blasted the "culture of mediocrity" in society, which exacerbated the hostage crisis. He noted that the hostage situation could have been better handled if the police underwent continuous and systematic training while government leaders prepare for different kinds of crises.

"Everything about this is mediocre and un-world class, from the police, sorry, from the media to even the grammar of everybody who was talking...Everything was to such a level that we have accepted mediocrity in our society, and we have to stop accepting mediocrity," he said.

He added: "We should start demanding and strive for excellence."

Heads must roll

The group said heads must roll if only to show that someone should be held accountable for the tragedy. After all, they said, many government officials would be claiming credit if the hostage situation had been resolved peacefully.

Three of the guests said Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim should be sanctioned for failing to manage the hostage crisis effectively.

Two picked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo for not showing up during the hostage crisis.

Three other people -- Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay, Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa and  SWAT commander Santiago Pascual -- got one vote each.

Ople said the nation must learn to be humble, accept the tragedy and move on.

"What we have to do is we have to forgive ourselves as a country. Everyone feels this burden on their shoulders and the first thing we should do to move forward is to forgive ourselves," he said.

Businessman Siy, however, said the country's leaders must ensure that there will be no repeat of the bloody hostage crisis.

"There needs to be a curriculum for people who are going to manage in government...because this incident is going to happen again in different levels and it's going to happen again in different forms and it can be anticipated," he said.

55% say GMA better in crisis management

Meanwhile, in an online poll that accompanied the live streaming and live chat of the ABS-CBN flagship newscast TV Patrol on Wednesday, there were slightly more citizens who thought the previous administration did a better job at handling crisis situations.

A total of 55% chose the “Oo, mas magaling” response to the question, “Mas magaling bang mag-handle ng krisis ang gobyerno ni dating Pangulong (Gloria) Arroyo?” The rest of the votes went to the other choice saying the opposite.

But the perception of some 400 live chat participants Wednesday night vacillated, and the responses swayed either way several times during the poll, with each response tying at 50% at least twice.

Several of those who said the former administration was better attributed this to the long stay in office of the former President, who served a total of 9 years. They said Arroyo had more time in her hands to learn about handling crises.

On the other hand, those who criticized the former administration said Arroyo was only good at covering up unresolved corruption allegations against her government.