MINDANAO Development Authority Chairman Jesus Dureza said it was clear there was no proper media handling during Monday's bloody bus hostage incident that left eight tourists dead.
Dureza, during an informal meeting with Davao media at the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) office Friday, said while the hostage crisis at the Quirino grandstand was unfolding for 12 long hours, no media briefing was held.
"There should be a media update every now and then. A holding area for the media covering the incident should have put everyone in place," said Dureza.
In his past experiences of crisis management in Mindanao, citing in particular the Dapecol hostage-taking in March 1998, Dureza said reporters need to be given updates now and then.
Dureza, who was Press Secretary of then president Gloria Arroyo, said they could have cordoned the area with blue plastic to prevent the taking of video footages.
"Kung may naka assign to handle the media, siya na dapat gagawa noon," he added. (If someone was assigned to handle media, he should have done that.)
"Siguro dito sa Mindanao hasang-hasa na tayo. Alam na natin yung pwede at hindi pwedeng gawin," he said. (Here in Mindanao, we know what we can and cannot do.)
The bus hostage incident left eight of 20 tourists dead in a 12-hour hostage drama aboard a bus hijacked by a dismissed police officer in Manila last Monday.
The standoff ended when police stormed the vehicle and a sniper killed the hostage taker, former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, who had been demanding his job back.
Media coverage was cited as among the factors that contributed to the botched negotiations, as the hostage-taker was able to speak on radio and got insights into police action through television updates.
"A negotiator's priority is to bring home the hostages safely. In the Dapecol hostage in March 1998, then President Fidel V. Ramos gave me a free hand. In the surrender of Datu Unsay Ampatuan Jr., a prime in the November 2009 Ampatuan massacre, I was instructed by then President Gloria Arroyo to lead the crisis committee on the ground in Maguindanao with regular consultations with the president," Dureza said.
A negotiator takes risks and “sinks or swims” with his decisions, added Dureza, who said the objective is to end the crisis swiftly and secure the safety of hostages.
"A sniper could have ended the bus hostage crisis sooner but the decision is the call of the negotiator. Siya ang may alam if the crisis needs to be ended. Hindi de kahon ang crisis management so I cannot make a judgment (on the bus hostage crisis)."
Dureza enumerated four templates for a crisis negotiator: (1) Full control of the situation; (2) Handling media well; (3) Gaining confidence of hostage taker; and (4) Preserving integrity.
He said it is unfortunate that the tourism industry has to suffer from the botched hostage crisis that has caused outrage among Chinese nationals.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) began to feel the backlash of the tragic hostage-taking when more than 500 tourists from Hong Kong and mainland China cancelled their online bookings.
As of Wednesday, PAL said its Hong Kong branch reported at least 558 cancelled Manila-bound bookings, consisting of tourists from Hong Kong, Beijing, Xiamen, and other points in China.
"Tourism is volatile. At least now we can say Mindanao is better than other places in the country," he said.
Dureza said it’s about time that the country reviews its justice system.
"The national government should fine-tune the justice system, which is so slow that people don’t go to court for redress of grievances,” he pointed out.(Gigie Arcilla-Agtay)