TO SERVE and protect. That's the motto of the Philippine National Police. Which sadly and embarrassingly was in short supply during the grand rescue that went pfft at the Quirino Grandstand. And in full view of the world, thanks to BBC, CNN, YouTube and the social networking sites. The uzis at the actual site pale in comparison to the kibitzers created by modern telecommunications.

I share Gov. Alfredo Marañon's consternation. "We're trying to sell our country as a tourist destination but how will the tourist come here with that situation?" My question exactly.

Post your reaction to the Manila hostage crisis

Of course, the Manila incident is far from making the Philippines at par with Iraq that is now reeling from the recent wave of terrorist bombings, striking mostly security forces. At least 48 people died and at least 286 others were wounded in 13 cities.

But the effect is almost just as horrendous if only because we were regaled in live TV with incompetence and ineptitude par excellence! This is the worst kind of washing dirty linen in public. But that ought to pressure the DILG for radical changes and improvement within the PNP.

I read the blogs and the local, national and international news agencies.

Everyone agreed that the PNP SWAT failed to serve and protect the hostages. How could anyone sane think otherwise? That seems to square with Bacolod City Police Office Director Celestino Guara's suggestion that local journalists have to arm themselves.

Even as I write this article, the breaking news just came out. Gunmen wearing police uniforms stopped a passenger bus plying the Cagayan de Oro to Zamboanga route and fatally shot four people, including two police marshals.

I doubt that the Mindanao killers were police officers. Having said that, our police forces were also nowhere to be found to provide protection for bus passengers. A sobering thought springs to mind. We cannot expect 24/7 police service and protection against evildoers.

If citizens cannot expect police protection, I can imagine a renewed demand for citizens to arm themselves. Then sooner than you can shout "Bang," you have armed vigilantes and lynch mobs on the loose taking the law into their own hands.

What I find shuddering is that disgruntled military and police officials are resorting to these desperate actions. We only have to go back to Brig. Gen. Raymuno Jarque who defected to the side of his mortal enemies, the CPP-NPA. Then of course there are the Oakwood Magdalo mutineers. And now Capt. Rolando Mendoza. Their desperate measures stem from a common denominator: injustice.

Unless our judicial system shapes up with the speedy disposition of cases, I'm afraid we haven't seen the last of we haven't seen the last of the Jarques, Trillanes and Mendozas. The trend is very disturbing. Many police and military officers are living their lives on the edge, and are showing signs of posttraumatic stress disorder.

As fellow columnist Primo Esleyer said, "The holding as hostages of a group of Hong Kong tourists by a reportedly bemedalled police officer who was dismissed for extortion, resulting in the cop's and some tourists' death can be traced to one problem in the country-compartmentalized justice."

Mendoza must have felt the great injustice of being a police officer whom the Ombudsman has dismissed for extortion, only to see as Primo noted that "many public officials who stole billions and billions of pesos, still freely going around."

In the meantime, what about the rest of us who want to continue to live our lives in peace? What if we end up in another hijacked bus? Can we expect rescue from SWAT units that will save our lives? Or suffer the same fate as the Hong Kong Chinese at the Quirino Grandstand?

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