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A preventable tragedy?
August 24, 2010 1:20 AM   Subscribe

25 Hong Kong tourists were held hostage in Manila in a 12-hour bus siege that ended with ten dead and six injured.

The deceased gunman, Rolando Mendoza, was a disgruntled ex-policeman dismissed due to drug extortion charges in 2008, in a country suffering from widespread corruption. The police response has been criticised. Many wonder whether the situation could have been handled better. President Aquino's statement.
posted by monocot (30 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
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The criticism seems a bit heavy-handed in my opinion. I've never attempted to assault a hijacked anything, let alone a bus. but with an armed hijacker firing back at police I would imagine an assault would be difficult and dangerous. That said, it is the Philippines, so who knows.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:27 AM on August 24, 2010


"The criticism seems a bit heavy-handed in my opinion."

We watched this live as it unfolded, and the handling of the hijacking was an amateur effort at best. Had the police taken the guy out when they had the chance (ie. when he stood fully exposed in the doorway of the bus earlier in the day), everyone aboard would have walked away.

HongKongers are pissed off to say the least.
posted by bwg at 2:48 AM on August 24, 2010


"The criticism seems a bit heavy-handed in my opinion."

The British SAS have certainly managed better, so it can be done.
posted by rodgerd at 3:10 AM on August 24, 2010


The British SAS have certainly managed better, so it can be done.

Ignoring of course that every single aspect of the situations are completely different and that you have cherry picked SAS's single most successful moment, sure why not?
posted by srboisvert at 3:19 AM on August 24, 2010


President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will personally call Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Donald Tsang regarding the bloody hostage crisis involving Hong Kong nationals Monday. ... Tsang was said to be upset with President Aquino when he was apparently unreachable at the height of the crisis.

Everyone stop shooting. I've got to take this call.

It's the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and he'll be pissed if I don't talk to him.
posted by three blind mice at 3:28 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The hostage rescue was very poorly executed. At the point at which the gunman appears at the door, the first option was to disable him or talk him out of it. By failing to do that, they let their best chance go.

Once you decide to storm something, you do it. Don't knock tiddly holes at the back, middle and front. This bit's pretty important because if you have one thing as a hostage rescue team it's numbers and surprise. You create as many points of entry as you can and you overwhelm.

The hostage rescue team's sole entry equipment appeared to be a sledgehammer. No obvious ladders. The first attempt to get a smoke grenade into the coach failed and was pretty halfhearted, at best.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:40 AM on August 24, 2010


From all accounts here in HK - which watched via live telecast, thanks progress! - the hostage rescue was inept. A bad strategy, poorly planned and disastrously executed. The driver managed to jump out of the front window while the police failed to effectively get in the back. There was nothing subtle or nuanced about this. It was FUBAR.
posted by Neale at 4:07 AM on August 24, 2010


MuffinMan: "Once you decide to storm something, you do it."

Spot on. Have they never heard of flashbangs?
posted by bwg at 4:15 AM on August 24, 2010


Here is a video of the storming of the bus. It's Keystone Kops bad. At one point one of the police trying to smash the front door in accidentally tosses his sledgehammer inside the bus then has to go and retrieve it. You can see it in his face, too… he's like, "Aww, fuck! Goddamnit, OK, I'll go get it! Pleasedon'tshootmepleasedon'tshootmeplease…"

Disclaimer:
While there's no blood & guts, if you look carefully you can see wounded and/or dead at the end of the clip through the windows.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:40 AM on August 24, 2010


Questions have been raised over how police failed to enter the bus before eight tourists were shot by a rogue policeman.

There's a phrase to strike terror in your heart.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:10 AM on August 24, 2010


Do they not have snipers in the Manila police?
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:23 AM on August 24, 2010


Everyone stop shooting. I've got to take this call.

It's the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and he'll be pissed if I don't talk to him.


Tell me what else President Aquino III was doing at that moment, because it wasn't taking leadership over the hostage situation. For Christ's sake, their assault on the bus only happened after they heard shots on the bus following failed negotiations some 10 hours into the crisis, and an assault by a SWAT team that uses glow sticks for illumination!
posted by tksh at 5:56 AM on August 24, 2010


The criticism seems a bit heavy-handed in my opinion

From the BBC link


In the last hour of the siege, police failed in an attempt to board the bus, being forced back by gunfire from the inside of the vehicle.

Almost one hour later, they managed to get on board the bus. By that time, the gunman had been killed along with eight of the 15 passengers remaining on board.


Go! Go! Go! Go! Oooo Lunchtime!! Go! Go! Go! Go!
posted by fullerine at 5:58 AM on August 24, 2010


That video reminds me of the Bus 174 hijacking in Brazil, which had a similarly inept police response. (That link goes to a news broadcast in Portuguese; there was also an excellent full-length documentary made about the incident.)
posted by Forktine at 6:25 AM on August 24, 2010


Bus 174 is a documentary about a bus hijacking in Brazil. In it, the police have dozens of opportunities to shoot the hijacker but don't, because they believe it will look bad to shoot a man on live tv.

It occurs to me that the same thing may have happened here. When he was just a hijacker (i.e. before anybody was killed), would it have been seen as too much if they'd shot him?
posted by Georgina at 6:31 AM on August 24, 2010


When he was just a hijacker (i.e. before anybody was killed), would it have been seen as too much if they'd shot him?

No. I would have seen it as a just and measured response to an armed nutjob holding a bus full of people hostage.

The actual rescue was a shit show.
posted by dazed_one at 6:50 AM on August 24, 2010


Well it has been almost a full 24 hours since the crisis ended so I think it's logical to come to wild conclusions.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2010


I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, but some of the commenters here are talking out of their ass. The Philippine police response was excreable and no excuse can be made for their ineptitude, not with eight innocent tourists dead and the utterly, utterly useless response they provided.

We will hear more about this as the aftermath develops. Obviously, nobody comes out of this looking good - but we can at least point the finger of doom blame at the hilariously inept Philippine police response, and the irresponsible media coverage.

The French GIGN have done it before, in Djibouti in 1976. I can't seem to find any articles specifically about it, but there are plenty of references online. Basically, five Somalian terrorists hijacked a bus of 29 children. GIGN forces sniped four of them and killed the last one. One girl died.

One suspects if the Philippines SWAT team had seen this ("Bustin' Busses") maybe a couple less tourists might have died.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:10 AM on August 24, 2010


Wow, I saw them pop the small hole in the side window and was like "Yes, FINALLY! Flash bang, flash bang, fla....what the fuck was that?!? Did they just throw in a single glowstick?!?"

Over two minutes from the time they start storming around the bus until they actually are able to get on the bus? I'm not a SWAT expert, and I don't think it's necessary to be one in order to see just how badly that was done.
posted by rollbiz at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2010


When he was just a hijacker (i.e. before anybody was killed), would it have been seen as too much if they'd shot him?

I'm sure there would have been some media debate, but I doubt it would have amounted to anything with consequences. One dead hijacker is vastly superior to dead hostages, and most people accept that.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2010


There was a former GIGN guy commenting on this on French TV, and he basically shook his head in disbelief at the video. His conclusions: poor equipment, no training, inadequate planning, disastrous execution. And he was trying to be diplomatic. Besides, it's hardly a badge of honour for the Filipino police that a former high ranking officer, expelled for drug extortion (something which should have landed him in jail), thought that kidnapping a tourist bus could get him reinstated in his job. That'd be an interesting resumé...
posted by Skeptic at 8:32 AM on August 24, 2010


Well, if the President of your country is the same dude who founded the Church of Set, you might... wait, what? Oh, different Aquino? Oh... Carry on...
posted by symbioid at 8:33 AM on August 24, 2010


Wow. That video footage was incredible. I'm no expert on the matter, but I'm sitting here shaking my head in disbelief. It looks like none of them really dares entering the bus, so they just fuss about on the outside, waiting for the gunman to come out and surrender to their sledgehammers and glowsticks.

It would be laughable if this behavior hadn't actually gotten people killed.
posted by cronholio at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2010


Do they not have snipers in the Manila police?
It's been one of the top stories in the mainland media too, naturally, and they don't shy away from fairly gory photo spreads - anyway, one showed a sniper in place in the early stages of the siege with a clear shot at the door where Mendoza appeared. I see some commenters are wondering if the Manila police were over-reluctant to shoot one of 'their own', albeit gone rogue.
posted by Abiezer at 9:40 AM on August 24, 2010


Admittedly the whole debacle and its aftermath are horribly bungled by the police and Aquino (some victims might have been killed by sniper fire and/or breaking-in attempts), and what that says about the government is not pretty, but some of the kneejerk responses from HKers on Facebook are verging on racist. I'm hoping it's just momentary rage and they won't confuse the people with the government, because we sure have a lot of Filipinos working here.
posted by monocot at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2010


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posted by AceRock at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2010


There's been enough said about the quality of the response, so I don't need to beat that dead horse. It was pretty bad.

The assault team members were not trained for this kind of work. It's pretty much as if a bunch of civilians put on helmets and tried to do it. They are scared, too, and that is clearly evident in the execution of the assault.

It seems to me to an extraordinarily difficult thing to do - assault a bus. Extremely limited room, the hostages are all in line of fire, no discreet entry points. The glass is safety glass, so it doesn't shatter easily. Well trained professionals - I imagine - would shy away from doing this. Sit it out, negotiate until the guy realizes it is truly a lost cause, or better, entice him out with promises of leniency and forgiveness.

It's hard to be patient, though.
posted by Xoebe at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2010


This reminds me that I need to pack my knife in my cargo luggage to carry with me when I travel.
posted by bwg at 5:51 PM on August 24, 2010


Have you not heard what they say about knives and gun fights?
posted by Mitheral at 10:15 PM on August 24, 2010


Mitheral: "Have you not heard what they say about knives and gun fights?"

Not if you figure that a guy carrying a rifle is not going to be able to wheel fast enough in an enclosed space to draw a bead on you, especially if you wait until the moment he passes your seat to leap up and drive the blade into the back of his skull.

If you don't want to kill the hijacker, you can use the hilt to deliver a moderate blow to the base of the skull to cause unconsciousness. Even if the person is only stunned, it gives you and other people time to take him to the ground.

I'd rather take that chance than just sit there and let the douchebag spray the bus with rounds.
posted by bwg at 10:43 PM on August 24, 2010


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