Monday, April 02, 2007

A culture of hostage-taking

What strikes me most about that whole Ducat caper that took place last week is finding out that we, as a people, are still capable of being surprised by the bizarre and the absurd. One would think that we are already immune to these things; after all, this is a country where hostage taking has become a regular happening.

I am sorry if I am coming across as this callous Pinoy-basher, seemingly insensitive to tragic events happening in this country.

I just do not share the hysterical reactions of the many others that project this impression that our world has been turned upside down by that Ducat episode. Of course I feel outraged that someone could, and in fact actually did, herd a group of kindergarten pupils ostensibly for a day of fun in Tagaytay, only to use them as hostages supposedly for their own benefit. I know that the previous sentence does not make sense; but then again, nothing in that whole chain of events made sense at all.

Of course I feel sad that the parents of those children, or that the children themselves, see the hostage taker as a hero instead of a rogue. But unlike the politicians and the other bleeding hearts who pontificate and put those parents to task for having the “wrong values,” I don’t think I am in a position to make judgments about what is in their hearts. Ducat presented a lifeline to something better, probably more tangible in their eyes than the empty words and election promises of local executives or by the government.

But let me state unequivocally: I do not approve of what that Ducat guy did. Nor do I think of him as a hero. Oh please, I think that guy is a total nutcase and should have been thrown into a cell (jail or mental institution, it does not matter which) a long, long time ago.

I agree with the many who think that that whole thing could have been avoided if Ducat were made to wear a straitjacket immediately after his first pathetic attempt to call attention to himself. This is a guy who staged similar publicity stunts at least thrice before including taking hostage two priests and staging a one-man protest atop the Welcome rotunda monument.

Still, I find all these reactions from the local media, government and socio-civic leaders extremely hypocritical.

Anyone who is still shocked that someone in this country could stage a hostage situation to get what he wants must be suffering from a serious case of denial. Where have you been? Most local executives who were in danger of being slapped a suspension by the Department of Interior and Local Government, or being kicked out by the Comelec for having won under spurious conditions, have resorted to the same caper many times.

In fact, something similar is occurring right this minute, as I write, in Mandaue City in Cebu. The city mayor over there, a guy named Thadeo Ouano, has barricaded himself inside the city hall. He is surrounded by his supporters.

Ducat had grenades and firearms, you say? Oh please, the city mayor probably has enough ammunition to wage a civil war. He has populated the city hall with bulldozers, minicabs, and people. These people are not kindergarten kids, but they are human beings being used as shields. You think that Ducat is guilty of putting to a halt all movements in a major thoroughfare? The mayor of Mandaue has put the whole workings of the city government to a complete halt.

His case is not isolated. Pasay City Mayor Peewee Trinidad has done it before. Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay almost pulled off the same stunt, even wearing a bullet-proof vest when he showed himself to media. Many other local executives from Nueve Ecija, Cavite, Iloilo, etc. have done the same. They also held a whole local government bureaucracy hostage.

And were these local executives thrown into jail for pulling these publicity stunts, endangering the lives of thousands, and sabotaging the delivery of government services? Of course not. Too bad for Ducat who is neither mayor nor governor.

So you think that media overstepped its bounds in covering the whole event? That it positioned itself as the main negotiator and director of the whole series of events? I have terrible news for you. Media has been trying to do that in the last two decades or so.

Many members of the media, particularly those who fancy themselves as the messiahs of this country, have been throwing their weight around and bullying practically everybody with their invisible cameras and ubiquitous microphones. They just don’t make commentaries and criticize, they pick savage fights and declare war on anyone who does not meet their fancy. Media people in this country even direct police raids, stage confrontations between alleged victims and criminals, provoke subjects to commit emotional harakiri, and in general hold everyone hostage at the sacred altar of high ratings.

Certain members of the media in this country fancy themselves not just as chronicler of events, but as prosecutors, judges, and even jail wardens.

And if you are still surprised that Senator Bong Revilla and senatorial candidate Chavit Singson were allowed to appoint themselves as negotiators and heroes, I have worse news for you. Politicians in this country, particularly those who make a fortune packaging themselves as Robin Hood wannabes, have been doing that for ages. Former President Joseph Estrada and the late Fernando Poe Jr., even Robin Padilla, have pulled similar capers in the past, eclipsing the efforts of military authorities during crucial life and death situations.

Revilla and Singson’s misplaced heroic attempts only invite scrutiny today because we happen to be in the middle of an election season. If there is something that surprises me, it is that actors Cesar Montano, Lito Lapid, Richard Gomez, and perhaps even actor and pseudo-politician Rez Cortez did not materialize in the scene alongside Revilla and Singson. I don’t approve of what Governor Singson did, but he summed it all nicely, albeit in a perverted way, when he said that the other politicians who are putting him to task for his actions are only sore that they did not get the opportunity to be in the frame.

Is a movie about the life of Ducat in the offing? You bet. And it probably will star Bong Revilla.

And what’s with this wringing of hands over how that hostage incident has severely affected the image of the Philippines in the international community? Who are we kidding? There are events in the world that are by far more bizarre, so international journalists who protest too much are indulging in the worst case of hyperbole. Take this case of this Indian guy in an international news agency who ranted on global TV about the squalid conditions of the slum area where the kids came from, coming very close to doing a Claire Danes (the movie star who described the whole of Manila as ghastly, cockroach infested, and teeming with grotesque people). When was the last time this guy was in India, for crying out loud?

This culture of hostage taking was not started by Ducat. And it won’t be the last. To a large extent, being in the Philippines is already like being held hostage. We’re hostages of uncaring and inept leaders, hypocritical moralists, sanctimonious members of media, etc. I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

2 comments:

vic said...

I still could remember a case of hostage taking right smack downtown during rush hour, where a man, after shooting his estranged wife seriously, took a woman hostage and threatening to shoot her if the ETF (Emergency Task Force) don't back off. After a few hours of negotiation and the Taker getting irritable and dangerous, the Sniper of the ETF team decided to conclude the incident to save an innocent hostage life. And we saw the whole drama unfolding live on t.v.

After that, no more Tom, Dick and Harry ever attempted similar stunt.

For Civilians and Politicians, their role maybe after the conclusion of the crisis, not during, otherwise they could get caught in the crossfire. And our "politicos" smart enough to butt out for things they were not voted for.

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