IT’S easy for us to look back in time and judge the way the police didn’t do well, or anyone of the leaders missed doing, in the hostage taking in Manila a few days ago. We, simple Juan back home in the province, or plain hardworking OFWs somewhere in Asia, only watched from the wings.

A dismissed police officer took as hostages 25 Hong Kong tourists in a bus parked near the Quirino Grandstand. Eight tourists died at the end of it.

Now, we make excuses for ourselves, even to ourselves, in the face of what the world probably thinks of us, China in particular--allowing eight Chinese tourists on a happy trip to be killed after an 11-hour hostage drama.

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The police lacks training, are short of equipment, are even deficient in common sense, they’re saying now. Oh, but the media, too, were very intrusive, so that it was like hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza was being given a blow-by-blow report on the police’s next moves through the TV monitor inside the tourist bus—they’re saying now.

When the police started pulling and pushing dismissed policeman Mendoza’s brother out of the place for an arrest, my reaction as an onlooker was, “Hey, someone, stop them!” That someone could have been one authority within the police force, or the city mayor, or the DILG officials. The condition of the hostage-taker’s brother was, to the hostages, like a ticking bomb.

Most people asked, “Hey, but where’s P-Noy?”

Who headed the crisis committee or whatever it was that was formed?

But that’s all we can think of now in the face of our getting flak from Hong Kong (and the world?), even as we feel so bad for our leaders to have failed to save more lives on that bus.

Chinese actor Jackie Chan, who tweeted his sympathy for the Philippines, saying that hostage taking could happen and fail anywhere else in the world, got angry reactions from Hong Kongers who are hurting from the tragedy and the loss of Chinese lives in a foreign land.

There are supposed to be ten famous hostage situations in the world, according to a listing published in 2009 by Listverse (Ultimate Top List) as of April 2007, and this includes the hostage taking in Mindanao of the US Protestant missionaries Martin Burnham and his wife Gracia.

The two were kidnapped by the separatist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and held hostage for a year and a few days, for money. The terrorists were given money. But it wasn’t the $1M they asked for, so they refused to free the couple. In the rescue operation by the Philippine Army in 2002, Martin was killed. Gracia is back in the US with her children.

Although not in the “list,” there was another hostage-taking incident shown to the world over media. It was the 10-hour hostage taking in 2007 of 32 wards of the Batang Musmos Day Care Center in Tondo, Manila, and two teachers. They were held captive in a rented tourist bus on Taft Avenue but the case was resolved, there were no casualties.

Hostage-taking is ancient, like the Romans taking the sons of conquered princes to hold them (also send them to school) so the parents would continue to be loyal to Rome and, hopefully, the sons would turn very Roman in outlook, to be useful later as Roman leaders.

But if the process went wrong, there would be killings, too. Hostage taking could be as terrible an experience, as when in year 2002, forty terrorists in Russia entered a crowded theater in Moscow and held hostage for two and a half days 700 people of the theater and the audience. Russian forces raided the building, killing all the terrorists, but also 120 of the hostages.

We’ve had more than one hostage-taking case, including the wealthy Chinese family members held hostage for money. Is this the only time we’re thinking twice, for fear of being a hostage country?

(ecuizon@gmail.com)