Friday, August 27, 2010

By Gonzalo "Jun" Policarpio


In any hostage situation, there is no guarantee of success. The fate of the hostages depends upon chance, luck, sudden change of mind of the hostage taker, or via a miracle from God. The mind of any hostage-taker borders on insanity or to a lesser degree, irrationality.

There are a variety of reasons why an individual or group would decide to hold another individual or group hostage such as political, personal, religious, or just an act of terrorism to pursue a goal.

In 1972, eight Israeli Olympic athletes died in the hands of Palestinian terrorists during the Munich Olympics. West German authorties tried their best to rescue the hostages but failed.

In 1979, the whole American nation was held hostage by militant Iranian radicals under the command of the Iranian religious fanatic leader Khomeini when they rushed to the Embassy compound in Tehran and captured 66 American officials and employees. This hostage crisis preoccupied half of American President Carter's term of office. Carter's failure to get the release of all the hostages led to his disgrace in the eyes of the electorate. HIs successor, Ronald Reagan, was able to achieve Carter's goal of a complete release that catapulted the Republican president as their savior in the eyes of the American voters.

I sincerely believe that nobody wants the hostages killed in any scenario. But during the hostage negotiations, things can change suddenly without warning. There is only a very, very thin line about to disappear that divides the hostage taker's mind between sanity and insanity. That is the nature of the sensitive human brain when put under intense stress, pressure, and perhaps a whisper from the devil.

The Manila hostage situation a few days ago where nine Hong Kong tourist were fatally shot by the hostage-taker, a dismissed Manila police offficer, is typical of a scenario when the hostage-taker lost his mind and decided to take his hostages with him to death.

As I watched the television coverage, the Manila authorites tried their best to avoid any tragedy. It took them a day-long of negotiations to satisfy the wishes of the hostage-taker. Not one of them, even when they decided to begin the assault, desired the death of any hostage. The goal of the assault was to take the hostage-taker out dead or alive to save any surviving hostages.

In any hostage negotiation, there is no guarantee that all the hostages will be saved. Some may be released and some may be killed.

Back to the Manila hostage situation, events may turn out differently such as the sudden change of mind of the hostage taker's brother telling his brother not to compromise. The Manila authorities used him in the negotiation believing that he would be able to persuade his brother to give up.

The Manila Mayor who ordered his removal from the premises was right. The hostage taker's brother became a liability, instead of an asset. But here's the unforeseen event: he tried to avoid being taken to police headquarters by running away towards where the media people were stationed yelling for help. Television cameras caught him being collared by his fellow police officers. And this scene was viewed by his brother, the hostage taker, inside the tourist bus' television monitor.

On top of this unwholesome event for him, the hostage taker got upset with the document from the Ombudsman, the Philippine government's prosecuting agency, which he expected would give him back his job.

I surely think these two events caused the hostage taker's mind to run berserk and started shooting at his hostages.

Now tell me, who's to blame for the death of the hostages? My good Filipino senators making an inquiry into the failure of the hostage negotiation, blame the devil who whispered to the hostage taker's ears to go for broke.

Let me give you a piece of my mind in dealing with any hostage situation: neutralize the hostage-taker when the chance permits before any negotiation starts for the hostage-taker's humanity has already started to deteriorate.


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