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September 6, 2010 / whyhansdantes

Philippine police: to “serve and protect”

*This article has been published on Asian Correspondent, August 29, 2010. This article was intended to be a column article concerning the events last August 23 at the Quirino Grandstand, where the Manila Hostage Crisis resulted in the deaths of  eight hostages. However, this article was criticized for being at some parts difficult to understand, bordering on being “esoterical.”



Philippine police: to “serve and protect”

By Hans Joshua Dantes

“We serve and protect” is the motto of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Yet to some, the credibility seems to have been marred by the events of these past few days. The hostage-taking incident involving former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza last August 23 that resulted in the deaths of eight Hong Kong nationals and the gravity of the repercussions that followed – the investigations, the feared backlash against Filipinos in Hong Kong, the stained international reputation of the Philippines – were heavy not only for the victims and their families, but also for the governments of both countries involved, and of course, the police, who is being primarily held responsible for what many have assessed to be a bad and bloody end.

Needless to say, when something ends bad and bloody, there’s always the inevitability of a hot-blooded blame game. Again, as indisputable as many would tell, the police force is number one on the list, with all the inadequacies in the incident that they’ve been accused of, some of which they have admitted. Enough may have been said for the PNP as far as performance is concerned, though some might beg to differ, and most likely more will be said. By extension, the Aquino administration is also facing criticism, within the country as well as abroad.

There is, of course, a different angle where some would justify cop action on the matter by conveniently pointing fingers on the blow-by-blow account of the incident’s media coverage. Detailing parts of the operation, let alone the assault team’s positions from time to time, and other ethical issues are being brought up. Even the mere presence of media was (and is) being questioned. Whether it was showing the arrest of the hostage-taker’s brother on grounds of being an accomplice live on TV that agitated him or it was the shooting of the bus tires that’s the last straw, news organizations have since come to claim its share of mistakes, though in no way absolving the PNP from its failure.

Still, a more unreasonable prospect remains, as with the fears of possible retaliation and discrimination by some Hong Kong citizens – this time on Filipino workers and residents there.

Blame Mendoza, blame his family, blame the cops, blame the government, blame the President, blame the journalists, blame the audience, blame the Filipinos, blame the discriminators, et cetera. In the chaos of it all, I am not here to discuss the varying distributions of each factor’s piece of the pie, or whether this or that side has a part of it at all. Neither am I saying that nobody is to blame, or everyone is to blame. But sure enough, someone is to blame. After all, that lies at the end of the fourteen-letter word that is ‘responsibility’.

Yet, accountability in the face of failure is but merely half the proper definition of responsibility. Nonetheless, it is one reason why many of us shy away from taking responsibility. It is due to the fear of righteous punishment, the chastisement for misgivings, many of which we have to admit are products of human nature. Then we tend to cling to the shallow notion of a go-to man, the guy to point fingers at, when everything is over.

It is this kind of mindset where responsibility is tantamount to nothing more than knowing who’s to blame. This was never the first crisis the country ever had, and the question of who will be held accountable was always the star of the show, sometimes at the expense of the what, why and how we will fare better for future scenarios. It is this kind of thinking that somehow shifts our attention to a vital definition, that responsibility also means, first and foremost, ‘getting the job done’.

People have been looking at responsibility more as a burden than as a duty, some even getting rather proficient at dodging every risk, as if by reducing their duties, they keep themselves safe from any responsibility. Such naiveté missed the fact that the essence of responsibility is not just the blame but, more importantly, doing your best in making the blame unnecessary – that is, by keeping things in order, and by delivering a job well done, whether it’s the daily mundane scene or a dangerous crisis.

Idealistic, one might say, but that is the point of all the training and hardwork that every citizen pours out in search of a good day’s work. That is also the point of learning from past mistakes and improving on previous actions. Learning from the past is responsibility. A good day’s work is responsibility, the very fulfillment of it. Such a basic mindset should be enough to widen a view narrowed down by the blame game. Such a basic mindset is in fact capable to “serve” and “protect”.


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