Not too late to apologize

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Ernesto F. Herrera

Ernesto F. Herrera

I find nothing wrong with former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and the Manila city government apologizing to Hong Kong for the 2010 hostage crisis in which 22 Hong Kong tourists were held hostage and eight were brutally killed by a dismissed Manila police officer.

In fact, I think Estrada and the city council are doing the right thing, and the only thing bad that could be said of the apology is that it comes rather belatedly.

As in any apology, what matters is not only how it is conveyed—the empathy and sincerity of it—but also the timing. If the apology is given not only sincerely but promptly and without any conditions or justifications, then it is more likely to be satisfactory and acceptable to the aggrieved party.

Nevertheless, a belated apology is better than no apology at all. President Aquino never apologized for the hostage-taking—a mistake that I believe must be corrected.


You apologize for something you did wrong, and there are many things the Philippine government did wrong on that fateful, tragic Monday in August three years ago, Manila’s own day of infamy, if only because we might never live down the horrors of what went wrong that day.

President Aquino keeps insisting that the government didn’t do anything wrong because the hostage-taking was the act of just one man.

But the hostage-taker, former Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza, was a member of the Philippine National Police. If he was dismissed, why was he still carrying his service firearms, an M-16 Armalite rifle and a short firearm? Shouldn’t these have been taken from him when he was fired from the police force? If he didn’t have his guns, he couldn’t have held the bus of Hong Kong tourists hostage. Mistake number one.

Indeed, after the incident, Mendoza was even portrayed in some local reports as a bemedalled former police officer, as a good man gone wrong. Sometimes the portrayal of him was almost heroic or saintly.

Oh, please! There was nothing saintly or heroic about a former cop who murdered and hurt innocent civilians, including women and children! Rather, there was always something very villainous and dark about the man.

I don’t care how many medals the guy I had. This is not meant to belittle or disrespect our policemen, but even they would agree that, just like in the military, medals are no guarantee of an officer’s integrity.

I have the utmost respect for all the honest, hardworking and competent policemen in our police force. But Mendoza never belonged to their class. He should never have been a policeman to begin with. The guy had no business being in a position of authority for the state, much less having possession of a deadly weapon. He was mean, deadly, psycho and corrupt.

Before he and his rogue mobile patrol group was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2009 for robbery-extortion and drug-related cases, Mendoza was also involved in the gang rape of a woman in Rizal Park in 1996, the same place where he would later hold hostage the Hong Kong tourists.

The case file says that Mendoza’s group arrested the woman for vagrancy in the vicinity of Quirino Grandstand, separated her from her boyfriend, then repeatedly raped her.

The complainant failed to show up in court so the case was later dismissed. Why? What did they do to her? Scare her from further testifying? Or worse?

Nevertheless, Mendoza went on with his merry ways. Before he went amuck, Mendoza and his men who were also dismissed—former policemen Nelson Lagasca, Nestor David, Wilson Gavino and Roderick Lopeña—liked to hold random, illegal checkpoints, terrorizing motorists in the Malate and Vito Cruz area for money. It’s called hulidap, which in the vernacular means arresting and holding people up at the same time.

Mendoza’s men used to victimize students and other young urban workers who live in that part of Malate where schools like La Salle and St. Scholastica’s College are located and where there are many dormitories and condos for students and yuppies. They paid the rogue policemen just so they could escape undue harassment and because they were simply scared.

The Ombudsman was right to dismiss Mendoza and his men. Indeed, they should not have only been dismissed but disarmed and put behind bars.

They weren’t. And so Mendoza later ended up taking a busload of tourists hostage and shooting eight of them dead. Wasn’t this a mistake of the government?

But the most monumental mistake perhaps is the botched rescue effort—a classic example of how not to deal with a hostage crisis.

There were plenty of opportunities to take Mendoza out, incapacitate him, kill him, whatever. There were so many things that could have been done to prevent the escalation of the hostage crisis into a bloodbath. These were things to apologize for too.

What Mendoza did in Manila, and how the government responded to the hostage-taking was a national and international shame, truly something to be sorry for. Killing and hurting those innocent tourists was the most heinous of crimes, especially for such a happy, peace-loving and friendly people. And if a bunch of Filipino tourists were killed by some madman in Hong Kong, we would expect an apology as well.

So please, by all means, Mayor Estrada, go ahead and apologize.

As a sidenote, if I were the PNP top brass, I would keenly watch Legasca and Mendoza’s other men who are still alive and roaming around free. Citizens have every reason to be scared of these ex-policemen who were charged with robbery, extortion and other crimes. They are more dangerous now that they are no longer policemen.

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2 Comments

  1. ex Senator Herrera is lost in translation here. Nobody is questioning ex Pres. Erap for going out of his way in going to Hong Kong and apologized in behalf of the City of Manila. It is actually a good move from Erap. The big issue is PNoy who never apologized and continue to be arrogant, defiant and hard headed. One’s worry is the Abnoy may apologize at the last minute when matters will be getting out control and it will be too late where the Chinese in Hong Kong will just consider the apology as superficial.

  2. wala naman masama kung nagkamali ay aminin at humingi ng dispensa. hindi naman tayo perfecto na kagaya ni Pnoy at hindi marunong magsinungaling.