Philippines: PLM calls for an independent inquiry on the hostage killings

By Sonny Melencio, Partido Lakas ng Masa

August 28, 2010 -- The Philippines Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses) commiserates with the families of the eight Chinese nationals killed in the tour-bus hijacking in Manila on August 23. The blunders of the Philippines police and officials in the hijacking crisis, which led to the deaths of the eight tourists, are indefensible from many aspects.

  • Why did the authorities order the arrest of the hijacker’s brother, a blunder seen on TV by millions of people, including the hijacker himself, during the crucial period of negotiations? This only escalated the tension and enraged the hostage taker.
  • Why was the Philippine SWAT team untrained and unprepared to handle the emergency, and had no necessary equipment even to smash the glass windows? If they have the equipment, why were they not able to use it?
  • Where were President Benigno Noynoy Aquino and other top government officials during the crucial period of the negotiations? Why didn’t they put themselves on the line to ensure the decisive and quick resolution of the crisis which had already become an international political issue?

These are just a few questions that not only are Hong Kong residents mulling over, but so are many Filipinos who are also indignant at the reckless manner in which the authorities handled the life-and-death crisis of the Chinese tourists. We are compassionate people who have time and again demonstrated our sense of decency, responsibility and duty toward our fellow human beings. But, unfortunately, the Filipino people’s values are not emblematic anymore of the state institutions in this country –- from government institutions to its law enforcement agencies.

On the contrary, the experience of ordinary people is the systematic violation of their rights by these institutions that have acquired a reputation for being corrupt, inefficient, anti-people and inhumane with respect to the treatment of ordinary citizens. Members of the law enforcement agencies, for example, are known to break the very laws that they are meant to enforce. Instead of protecting the rights and even the lives of the masa [masses], they wantonly violate these rights as exposed in recent TV footages of demolition of urban poor people's houses and the torture of a petty criminal at the hands of the police in Manila.

We share the indignation of the Hong Kong residents and we assure them that we will always be in solidarity with them to rid both our societies of inept, corrupt, vile and criminally inclined institutions and elite forces who do not value people’s rights. We support the solidarity activities on this issue by our brave overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong who are also bearing the brunt of the anger and frustrations felt by the people of Hong Kong. As usual, it is the poor who suffer from the ineptitude of the government. We also agree with the position of the Hong Kong media that the occasion should not be used to curtail the rights of the media in the Philippines, local or foreign, to expose the ineptitude of the Philippine authorities on this issue.

Finally, we call for an independent inquiry, with participation of independent experts and security analysts who will be able to more competently draw out the necessary actions and lessons of this unfortunate event compared to our very own authorities.

[Sonny Melencio is chairperson of Partido Lakas ng Masa.]

Hostage killings: When life is cheap

By Reihana Mohideen

August 25, 2010 -- Socialist Feminist -- Most Filipinos are shocked and angry at the outcome of the hostage taking and believe that the authorities bungled the operations, thus costing the lives of the seven tourists from Hong Kong. But then most Filipinos are a compassionate people who also feel a sense of responsibility and even duty towards their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, such humane values are not emblematic of the state institutions in this country – the law enforcement agencies and other government institutions, legislative and executive.

On the contrary, the experience of ordinary people is the systematic violation of their rights by these very same institutions that have a reputation for being corrupt, inefficient, anti-people and inhumane with respect to the treatment that they mete out to their ordinary citizens. Members of the law enforcement agencies, for example, are known to break the very laws that they are meant to enforce. Instead of protecting the rights and even lives of the masa they violate these rights, including peoples lives (witness the recent torture of a petty thief at the hands of the police).

Life, especially those of the poor, is "cheap" in this country. Governments/institutions have abrogated their responsibility to protect poor peoples lives, as seen by the preventable loss of lives due to "accidents", floods and landslides, the regular capsizing of overcrowded boats and the drowning of hundreds, the continuing extrajudicial killing of activists and journalists and the millions of lives wasted by poverty.

This cheapening and degradation of human life in this country has once again been dramatically exposed, and this time in the international arena, with the loss of lives of overseas nationals. The problem is not merely one of better training and equipment for the Philippines National Police. It's deeper and more fundamental, tied to the very nature and culture of these institutions, whose structures, internal culture and practice is not geared towards fulfilling their social and human obligations. Their internal functions and culture are in fact the very antithesis of anything social -- they are anti-social.

Some governments still carry out their responsibility of protecting their citizens with a certain degree of commitment and efficiency and hence thereaction of the Hong Kong authorities to the killings of their nationals on Philippines soil. If the loss of lives were those of Filipino nationals, one cannot help but wonder if the Philippines authorities would respond in the same way – with indignation and anger at the loss of Filipino lives and doing everything in their power to protect the needs and interests of their citizens. Successive governments' indifference to protecting the lives of Filipino citizens inside and outside the country -- such as that of overseas Filipino workers -- indicates that this would not be the case.

[Reihana Mohideen is chairperson of Transform Asia, Gender and Labor Institute and editor of Socialist Dialogue (a journal to be published later this year). This comment first appeared at her blog, Socialist Feminist.]

(August 23, 2010 )


The Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP-1930, the Philippine Communist Party) condemns the brazen hostage-taking today by a disgruntled Manila City police officer, who executed some of his hostages before he was finally killed in a police assault.

Police Senior Inspector (captain) Rolando Mendoza, who was ordered relieved on robbery-extortion charges, took a busload of 22 foreign tourists from Hong Kong, plus 3 Filipinos (employees of a local tourist agency), as hostages. The hostage-taking was done in the morning at Manila ’s Intramuros area which is popular with tourists, and seized randomly was the busload of tourists who were supposed to take their flight home tonight.

From Intramuros, the busload was taken to the Luneta area where Mendoza unveiled his demand for reinstatement. Some of the hostages (mostly children and elderly) were released during a stand-off with police negotiators, but 15 hostages were kept to be used as human shields. Some family members of the hostage taker, particularly his younger brother and fellow police officer, Gregorio Mendoza, tried to separately negotiate with him with the help of some media people. However, the situation turned for the worse this evening when a police team suddenly arrested younger brother Gregorio as an accessory to the hostage-taking, in full view of TV cameras.

This mishandling of the situation, which was shown on the TV set inside the tourist bus, enraged the hostage-taker who started to shoot at some of his hostages, and this forced the SWAT teams to make the assault on the bus. Early reports indicate that 7 hostages were killed and 5 were wounded, as the ordeal of almost 12 hours came to an end.

Coming on the heels of the recent revelations about police brutality at the Manila Police District, particularly the inhuman torture at a Tondo police sub-station which led to the death of at least one robbery suspect, this hostage-taking incident is another blot on the Manila police force which would generally reflect upon the Philippine government and would deal a blow on Philippine tourism.

The PKP-1930 calls upon the administration of President Noynoy Aquino to conduct a thorough investigation of this case, initiate the regular psychiatric testing of police officers to weed out those with sadistic or even suicidal tendencies, and ensure the conduct of continuing trainings on human rights and humanitarian laws within the police establishment. The government should also review police procedures to ensure the immediate disarming of relieved police officers, to set parameters for media coverage of hostage crises, and to ensure the well-coordinated and effective handling of any future hostage-taking incidents.

The PKP-1930 extends its condolences to the bereaved families of the slain hostages, wishes speedy recovery of those wounded, and commiserates with all the others who suffered this harrowing ordeal.

General Secretary