The Blame Game

The hostage taking last Monday, which saw 9 Chinese nationals lose their lives and others injured was indeed a sad and tragic event. As a result a lot of blame has been going around. From the police to the media as well as the President of the Philippines has not been spared blame. There are a lot of fingers being pointed in all directions. So who is to blame really?

Is it the police? They did manage the situation very poorly. From what I’ve seen on live TV, read in the paper and from various social media accounts the police really failed to do their jobs properly. It seems that they could have ended the situation much earlier with less casualties but failed to do so. When they did move to subdue the hostage taker they looked like they were all rookies fresh out of the police academy instead of highly trained law enforcement officers.

I will admit that our police force is sorely lacking in all aspects. They lack training, equipment but most of all education. A lot of our police officers are under educated. This is attributed to our poor education system. Most police officers here come from poor families. They’re a product of the public education system and as sad as it seems our education system is bad, thus the level of competence of our policemen is really not at par as with developed nations.

All the right equipment in the world would be for nothing if the person using it can’t think well.

To the policemen’s credit, lacking equipment and education/training, they’re still brave enough to go out there and risk their lives to help people they don’t know. It takes a brave man to go and face off with a gunman even if he’s wearing a bulletproof vest; it’s even braver when you’re wearing none. Most of the policemen on the scene had only their uniforms to protect them.
To people who say that being a policeman you should be ready to die in the line of duty, let me see you say that once bullets are flying towards you. It’s not that easy. Your resolve will only be tested once you’re in that situation. It’s easier said than done. If you’re not dodging bullets for a living, I think it’s best you refrain from making comments like that.

Is it the media then? Well they did broadcast a lot of things that in most people’s opinion contributed to the agitation of the hostage taker. They also showed the assault on live TV which if I were to believe some articles I’ve read, the hostage taker was also watching it live on the bus. Therefore giving him knowledge as to the movements of the policemen as well as a cause for agitation.
The Philippines has one of the freest presses in Asia. The local media has been able to report on a lot of things without really being hampered.

However a free press does not mean that rules and guidelines should not apply. It doesn’t mean that the media should not think about their actions and the consequences that result because of their actions.

When people suggest that there should be a news blackout for certain situations, that does not mean that there should be no media or coverage present, it just means that the stories should not air live. Media can still cover and shoot video but it should be aired/published at the right time.

Journalists that cover wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan are embedded in with armed forces units. They are allowed to cover but they do not broadcast during times wherein there are operations. They do not air tactical positions of the armed forces. They exercise restraint when doing their jobs in order to ensure safety of the soldiers. It should be the same for situations like the hostage taking that just happened.

The media industry has been so competitive as of late that out scooping the competition sometimes impairs the judgment of media practitioners. This needs to change.

Is the President of the Philippines and his cabinet members to blame? There’s the concept of command responsibility and for all intents and purposes the buck does stop with the President. Ultimately he should be accountable for everything that happens in this nation of ours. He is after all the chief executive. The cabinet members namely the Secretary for Local Government is also responsible because for this aspect he is the President’s alter ego. Ergo he is responsible as well as he is representing the President.
The President ultimately shares a big part of the responsibility for what happened last Monday. It happened during his watch. However, it is not entirely his fault. Even the best leaders make mistakes or are put into situations that are really unpredictable.
A certain congressman has suggested that the President’s lack of visibility meant that he wasn’t on top of things. Just because a President is not basking under limelight does not mean he’s not giving it attention.

Should the President be at the scene of a hostage taking? No. That’s not his job. He is not a hostage negotiator or a police commander. He has people specifically trained to do those things. Let those people do their jobs.
The stance of the current government to limit the involvement of politicians during the hostage crisis is in my book the right move. Politicians and personalities should not be involved in those matters.

So who’s really to blame for what happened last Monday? My answer is that all of us share a portion of the blame. Those people who keep pointing at others forget that that when they point, three fingers are pointing back at them.

We are all to blame because we have allowed our society to get to the state where it is right now. We allowed corrupt politicians to reign over our country hampering our development. Those corrupt politicians that are pointing fingers now failed to realize that by pocketing money that rightfully belongs to the people, they are depriving the country of resources that should be spent educating, training and buying equipment for public servants such as policemen.

We have grown accustomed to wanting to know so much that we’re finding it hard to draw the line where we should hold back. We want to know what’s happening all the time that we fail to realize that our wanting to know sometimes puts others in jeopardy.
I believe in our right to have a free press and the rights to know what’s happening around us but I also believe there is a right time for the information to be given to us.

We are all at fault because we as a society has become so selfish that there are a lot of people who are in despair that they need to resort to drastic measures just to make their desperation known. The hostage taker was not asking for anything other than just to have his job back. What does that tell you?

While there are people who are at fault during the actual event, we should ask ourselves why that event took place. Why was one man so desperate that he had to take hostages? He was by no means a terrorist. What he did was wrong but I think at the beginning his intentions were not really to create terror. He just wanted to be heard and he wanted people to notice. We need to look at the root of it all and see why things like this happen.

We’re all to blame for this. Until we as a people get our acts together, events like this will happen again.

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