Nine reasons why it all went wrong in bungled operation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 August, 2010, 12:00am

Mainland criminologist Mei Jianming, an associate professor at the Chinese People's Public Security University in Beijing, says the Manila hostage crisis was a typical kidnapping and relatively uncomplicated.

However, the amateurish and lackadaisical response by the Philippine police led to the abject failure of the rescue mission, he told The Beijing News. He listed these errors made by the police during the rescue operation.

Error 1

The biggest mistake was to send the kidnapper's brother to negotiate. The gunman would not surrender in front of a family member because he would want no loss of face, or loss of dignity. When he learned his brother had been arrested by police he became very emotional.

Error 2

The Philippine authorities should not have responded with a point-blank rejection when the gunman demanded his job back and should have said they would reconsider his case. Expert negotiators would have tried to get the kidnapper to see reason, and, at the same time, kept a close eye on the situation in the bus, including the positions of the hostages and the gunman.

Error 3

Police used common sledgehammers to smash windows and threw fluorescent light bars into the bus for lighting instead of using torches on their hats or guns. No ladder was prepared to get into the bus. The whole rescue operation was primitive and backward.

Error 4

Police tried to drag the bus door open with a rope but it broke. They should have verified each step of the rescue operation so that no such errors would occur.

Error 5

Only two teams were used to smash windows, instead of attacking from several directions. Negotiation experts should have tried to win time to provide precise information before the assault, which should have been conducted from several directions to confuse the kidnapper so that police could seize the moment and take him.

Error 6

The assault was not conducted at the earliest possible time. Police should have thought about what might happen even before the kidnapper fired the first gunshot, but they made no move for 10 minutes after the first shot. Usually a kidnapper's first shot heralds more extreme action, and snipers should have been ready to shoot the kidnapper when the hostages were in danger.

Error 7

Police should have made more effective use of tear gas or smoke bombs before entering the bus to temporarily disable the kidnapper so that he could not fight back. However, the first policeman to jump into the bus had to withdraw after the kidnapper fired back.

Error 8

The live television broadcast showed the kidnapper several times without any cover, but police snipers missed all the opportunities. Police could have shot to disable him before he posed a mortal danger to the hostages, and should have been prepared to shoot to kill when the situation deteriorated.

Error 9

The bus driver provided incorrect information, saying all the hostages were dead, which was partly why police launched their attack. The failure to negotiate properly meant no one knew what was going on inside the bus.