THE hostage crisis in Manila that lasted almost 11 hours and left dead eight hostages, all of them tourists from Hong Kong, may be considered an isolated case but it certainly was a black mark on President Noynoy Aquino’s first 100 days in office.
The people of Hong Kong are taking the incident seriously.
The fiasco could trigger a souring of the relationship between our government and that in Hong Kong. Reports said that the contract of a Filipina maid in Hong Kong was not renewed because of the incident.
But the concern should not only be about how much the hostage crisis would affect the country’s tourism industry but also on how the image of the police and the justice system got a beating internationally.
Hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza complained about his dismissal from the Philippine National Police allegedly without due process. But the means that he resorted to in seeking redress for his grievance was undoubtedly unjustifiable. Still, he was able to drive home the point that unfairness occurs in the police service and that the wheels of justice at the Office of the Ombudsman grind very slowly.
The people of Hong Kong are demanding justice for the victims even as the hostage-taker died after a sniper bullet felled him. Naturally, the Aquino government has to answer for the botched attempt to rescue the tourists in the bus.
The hostage drama may have ended after Mendoza was felled by a sniper. But the way the police handled the crisis overall tells us that they were ill-prepared for that kind of situation.
The cops may have done their best under that circumstance, but their efforts were not enough because instead of saving the lives of the hostages, eight people were killed and others were injured in the process.
There are those who suspect that some of the victims were hit by friendly fire from the responding policemen, who stormed the bus after the driver jumped out of the bus and shouted that the hostages were all dead.
The arrest of Mendoza’s brother Gregorio, who tried to help the police negotiators, was caught live by TV cameras and could have incensed Mendoza, prompting him to begin firing his gun.
Media people that covered the incident were also blamed for the failure of the police to save the lives of the hostages. Indeed, the TV coverage provided us with live reports. But decorum dictated that situations that could fan Mendoza’s anger should not have been aired live.
In sum, the unfortunate incident provided a hard lesson for the Aquino administration for it to improve the capability of the police in responding to any given situation.
Republic Act 9994, also known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, took effect in June this year. But believe me, a drug store in Talamban refused to give a senior citizen the benefits mandated by this law.
Under Article 8 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9994, senior citizens are given a 20-percent discount and value-added tax (VAT) exemption on all purchases even if it paid through a credit card.
I personally witnessed last week how a drug store supervisor refused to give the 20 percent discount and VAT exemption on the medicines a senior friend bought because he paid with his credit card.
The supervisor argued that the 20 percent discount and VAT exemption only apply to cash payment. She was wrong because credit card payment is allowed under the law.
Maybe, she was not yet aware of the provisions of RA 9994. But as a legal maxim says, “ignorance of the law excuses no one.”
My friend could only bewail how our laws are blatantly desecrated by anybody.