Exactly two years ago, on the day after the bloodbath at the Quirino Grandstand, this was the headline of The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Yesterday marked the second year of the infamous Manila Hostage Tragedy where 8 Hong Kong tourists died when dismissed police officer Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus carrying 25 people in an attempt to get his job back.
Yesterday’s commemoration may have been overshadowed by other issues and events (Sen. Tito Sotto’s alleged plagiarism and his staff’s moronic defense and the sudden death of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, to name some) but this tragic event in our history is still fresh in my mind, as if it happened just recently.
I was then in between doing my editing works and procrastinating on Tumblr when the news broke out the morning of August 23, 2010. Having seen a similar situation years before when Jun Ducat held hostage preschool students in a bus, I told myself that this will also come to a peaceful end. I even exchanged some good laughs and ideas with an online buddy, Tita Marj, about the possibility of creating a biopic for Captain Mendoza and guessing who would be the best actor to portray him (I personally chose Efren Reyes Jr. and Spanky Manikan for the role).
The whole afternoon and early evening went by with me tweeting and posting some stuff on Tumblr about the hostage crisis, my opinion, my rant against Captain Mendoza, on how would it affect our image to the international community, and being glued on the evening news on television, monitoring the events.
And then the unexpected came. The whole country – and perhaps the whole world – was in shock.
Most of us, I think, were glued then on the television and have watched the events that lead to a bloodbath. Those who have no television during that time resorted to social media, blogging site Tumblr included, for updates. My dashboard became a news feed of sort, thanks to the Tumblristas who posted the events (and opinion) on the blogging platform. (There was even a pun created during that time on David Karp’s cyber empire. Tumblr became ‘Tumblr Patrol’ in reference to the blow by blow posting of events just like in the news program ‘TV Patrol’.)
After the tragic event, the eyes of the whole world were glued to our country and the then two-month old Aquino administration was put under the spotlight of local and international ridicule. The Pinoy culture of ‘mas magaling ang miron’, ‘sisihan’ and ‘turuan’ were seen days after the event. Memes about how pulpol our policemen were spread on various social media. Angry Facebook users stormed the Facebook page of President Aquino (that lead to its early demise and reconstruction). And to make things worse, photos of policemen and students who were taking pictures with the ill-fated bus spread on the internet (that added to the anger of the citizens of Hong Kong.)
It has been repeatedly said that no one wanted this to happen. Our country has repeatedly apologized to the victims. But is an apology enough? No. Is justice served to the victims? Apparently, even after two years, not yet.
Yesterday, the families of eight Hong Kong victims who were killed in the hostage crisis stormed our consulate in Hong Kong as they demand for an apology from our Government. And two years after the tragedy, Hong Kong has not lifted its ‘black’ travel warning that discourages its residents from travelling to the Philippines. (It was originally issued on the day of the hostage taking.)
I understand the grief of the victims’ kin. Two years after the event, only one among those who were recommended to be accountable was punished and sacked from office (the alleged extortionist ex-Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III who is one of the causes of captain Mendoza’s outrage). I personally read the recommendation of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) soon after the document was made public and I was disappointed to learn that some of their recommendations were not followed by the Palace. For instance, they did not follow the recommendation of the IIRC to sanction PNP Chief director General Jesus Versoza, Manila City Vice Mayor Isko Salvador, and DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno (the latter, allegedly, was saved because he was the President’s shooting buddy).
But to be fair, I commend the current administration in their efforts in their drive against corruption. We do not want to make another Captain Mendoza among the civilians and our servicemen. It will be remembered that one of the reasons why Captain Mendoza hijacked the bus was the alleged corruption (and bribery for his pending case) on the Office of the Ombudsman.
Two years have passed and although justice is yet to be fully served on the victims, we can see some changes on the system. There’s already a new Ombudsman in the person of Conchita Carpio-Morales. With the sudden death of Sec. Jesse Robredo, the clamor of the public for a clean and honest governance has increased. With the appointment of the new Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, hopefully, there is a drastic change in our judiciary. And with the active participation of the people through social media, I think, we are getting closer to the dream of having a clean system.
But before all of these good things to materialize, let us not forget that there are grieving relatives of the victims, there are accountable persons who are yet to be sanctioned, and there is still an elusive justice that is yet to be served.
And I hope this would never happen again. Never again.
- Manila Hostage Tragedy Survivors call for an Apology from Philippine Government– Two years after the tragedy, the cry of the victims’ families remains the same.
- Who were Accountable for the Manila hostage Crisis? During the commemoration of the first anniversary of the tragedy, GMA News Online looks back at the personalities held liable for the tragedy and examines if justice has indeed been served to the eight victims of dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza, who was himself killed in a police assault viewed live worldwide.