Truly a sad day for the Philippines. Senior Inspector Rolando (earlier mentioned as Reynaldo) del Rosario Mendoza probably did not wake up today thinking that this would be his last Monday. While he probably has had a lot of things on his mind recently since his dismissal from police service, he must still not have thought that today would end the way it did.
How could a policeman with 17 service medals, a commendation for meritorious service, and one of the Ten Outstanding Police Officers in the Philippines think of holding a tourist bus with many civilians hostage?
It is truly hard to imagine that this honorable police officer was truly guilty of his extortion charges in 2008. Why, after years and year of honest service, would he risk his name and reputation, not to mention his livelihood, for an alleged extorted amount of P200,000.00? His family was quoted as saying that the case was tied to the higher ups of his police department, but of course, as is always the case in our country, the sad and defenseless little people are the ones who take the fall.
I believe that he would have continued with his life quietly had he not been deprived of his benefits. A true dirty cop would have probably squirreled away millions of pesos by the time he was dismissed, so there would have been no problem with a dismissal from work and a deprivation of retirement benefits. But these benefits were the only thing that the hostage taker was actually after, which again begs the question: maybe he truly was not guilty, and whatever was accused of him ate at him so much that he lost all sense of nobility and decided to fight fire with fire instead.
His death has also exposed the ineptness of the entire Philippine Police. The very dramatic and much controversial forced detainment of the hostage-taker's brother, shown on live television, was what finally made Captain Mendoza snap. The police should have never done that that publicly. Because of what they did, almost dragging Mendoza's brother toward a police car, Captain Mendoza lost all sense of right.
When the driver jumped out of the bus and shouted everyone was dead, the police should have never stormed and shot at the bus as they did. They should have verified first if everyone was indeed dead before assaulting the bus with bullets. As it turned out, there were several hostages who were fine, and I am pretty certain that at least one or two of the dead hostages were killed not by Mendoza but by the bullets of the police assault team.
Why was there no high ranking hostage negotiator? If they had someone with authority talk to Mendoza, things would have been different. Police and military men are trained, almost brainwashed, to respect authority without question. If someone of an important rank had negotiated, things would have probably ended amicably. Now, we will never know.
The mere fact that Captain Mendoza released old and young people early in the hostage-taking drama suggested that he was not a cold-hearted criminal. That should have given the authorities the idea that Captain Mendoza was probably willing to negotiate. Instead, for the rest of the day, the police simply bungled the negotiation and ended the crisis with a dead decorated policeman and several foreign nationals also dead.
The chief police of the Manila area, as well as the PNP chief should both be held accountable for what happened. This should never have happened.
P.S. It is a bit strange that Captain Mendoza's last name is Basque in origin. The Basques are of course known for their strong independent streak as well as their continued struggle for what should be theirs. Also, the name Mendoza means "cold mountain".