Even an amateur had a better plan
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-08-26

Even an amateur who has read enough books and saw enough movies and television had devised a better plan than the police who bungled the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta last Monday.

If you’re thinking that your Chair Wrecker is being overly severe and critical to our equivalent of the bungling Keystone Kops of Hollywood — just read this edited email my friend Manolo Cantos sent me yesterday:

“Dear Billy,

The police had no strategy. Their moves were too predictable. I’d simply use an old strategy, the same way the Persians defeated the 300 Spartans.

1) Use forklifts, two of them, to destroy the windshields. There are lots of them in the South Harbor which is just at the back of the Manila Hotel. To use a “maso” is simply dumb. The policeman hammering the bus window could be a sitting duck.

2) Attack strategy: Lure the hostage taker’s attention to the front by pretending to mount a large attack. The police could use a backhoe (again lots of them are in the pier or in nearby construction sites) to lift them up and they could fire while being covered inside its bucket. While gun fires are oozing from the front, which will become the focus of attention of the hostage taker, a sniper could climb at the back (again using the forklift or a backhoe) and make an unhampered hit.

If you recall the strategy of General Norman Schwarzcopf in Operation Desert Storm (co-authored with his deputy commander Lieutenant General Cal Waller), it was the “left hook” strategy that went into Iraq behind the Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait that was credited with bringing the ground war to a close in just four days. 

The 300 Spartans of Leonidas protected a pass and they were constantly beating back the Persian offensive. King Xerxes was already considering withdrawal until Ephialtes, a Greek traitor, revealed to Xerxes a secret mountain goat track. Xerxes sent his army onward and Leonidas’ Spartans became surrounded. Being too few to hold the pass on two sides, Leonidas and the Spartans were all killed. 
Vic Morrow in the television series COMBAT, used to beat the German machine gunner if one of the American soldiers could secretly crawl to the back of the German gunner.

Policeman Mendoza was alone in that bus. Why couldn’t the police employ a simultaneous attack on at least two sides? The Monday night movie was a spectacle of silly amateurs, neither thinking nor planning their actions. They gave us a big embarrassment as the world watched the drama on live television.”

Don’t you agree that Manolo had a better plan than those Keystone Kops that bungled the hostage rescue operation? Manolo is a businessman, not a policeman, not a SWAT team member, not a Special Force member — but how come he could conceive of a better rescue plan than our Keystone Kops?

During my first visit to Scotland in 1985, Iain Douglas Howie — still on active service in Scotland Yard — was my traveling companion all over the Highlands where my MacGregor ancestors were rooted. During one of our many conversations, Iain narrated why the British are very proud of their specially trained units for hostage crises.

What was etched in my mind from that discussion was Iain’s narration of the ABCs of rescue assaults during hostage situations. These ABCs may be summarized, as follows: 

1. Once a hostage situation happens, the police force must immediately plan for the worst case scenario which means that the hostage taker or takers will start killing the hostage or hostages and immediate rescue operations must be launched.

2. The planning must provide for a QUICK ENTRY to the place and LINE-OF-FIRE PROXIMITY to the hostage taker or takers in order to immediately initiate combat and neutralization. The sooner the engagement with the hostage taker or takers happens, the less hostage lives will be lost.

3. The specially trained rescue team is conditioned to place the protection of the lives of the hostages as their top priority — even at the risk of losing their own lives.

Now, just how do you rate our police operatives against those ABCs?

The Philippine National Police had at least 9 hours to prepare the assault. How come they were not ready to gain a quick entry into the bus? It took them close to an hour before a police operative got on board the bus. If they were dealing with a suicide bomber last Monday — they could have all been blown to smithereens.

How come they activated the assault without the proper equipment? That thin rope that snapped when they tried to pull out the bus door was the best demonstration of their lack of preparation.

Surfing through cable channels, we caught the BBC news anchor — who was annotating their live coverage of our pathetic police operation — saying with typical British understatement: “The Manila cops seem to be overly cautious.”

Hostage taking can happen in London, New York, Paris and Singapore but these incidents will not have as much negative impact as when it happens here. The reason is that the other nationals trust the capability of their security and police forces to contain the threat.

* * *

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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