Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Assault on Precinct 13th... with a Pinoy Flavor

The Abu Sayyaf has done it again. I guess Commanders Kosovo, Robot and Global had prepared for their last hurrah. And they were, once again, successful in putting up a great show. Once again, the country was shaken by horrific events initiated by these natural-born killers.

Yesterday, 14 March 2005, around 6 in the morning, just when most of us are getting ready to go to work or come to class, and just hours before the new PNP Chief is installed, Abu Sayyaf inmates headed by Kumander Kosovo placed their detention cell, Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, under siege. Their initial plan was to escape, however, jail guards managed to contain them inside the prison, and were able to call for back up before they could run scot-free. The early morning skirmish resulted in the death of two jail guards and two Abu Sayyaf men.

After massive exchange of gunfire, Abu members declared ceasefire and offered talks. They initially wanted Robin Padilla to be the lead negotiator. Talk about terrific casting. Unfortunately, Robin is taking a vacation in Australia with his wife and children. Governor Parouk Hussin of ARMM and Party List Representative Rajiv Hataman offered their services to be lead negotiators. Perhaps Abu men had no second opinion for the Bad Boy of Philippine Cinema, thus anyone else will do.

Surprisingly, government gave three deadlines yesterday: first was at two o’clock in the afternoon. However, the negotiators demanded more time so they were given an additional hour, extending the deadline to 3:00 pm. Again, negotiators demanded more time and government once again relented. They gave a 10:00 pm deadline. However, it was once again extended up to the next day. The Abu men even demanded for food before participating in the talks. By their demands, they epitomize the Filipino term “balahura.”

Alas, government men saw the light 24-hours after the first gunfire was shot. The crisis management team gave two final deadlines: one was at 5:30 am, and the final ultimatum, at 8:50 am. After this, they decided that they have already “exhausted” all efforts to negotiate. I don’t know if it’s just vigor, but I think it took too long for them to be exhausted. The head of the Crisis Management Team, Sec. Angelo Reyes, finally decided to take on them by force. At around 9:00 am, the PNP Special Action Force slowly but systematically infiltrated the cells, threw tear gas where even the policemen themselves got teary-eyed, opened fire and by the grace of God, defeated the Abu men.

As of 11:00 am today, the PNP has declared the end of jail stand-off, with 22 reported fatalities on the side of the detainees. These included Abu Sayyaf leaders Commander Kosovo, Commander Robot, and Commander Global. Just like how many action movies end up, the bad guys die in the end.

Special thanks to Abu Sayyaf’s penchant for media exposure, we have, once again, witnessed real-life action. Not just that. It also made us view a glimpse of our weaknesses, security-wise. In these fateful two days, two flaws were evident: a) the incapability of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to guard prison cells; and b) the seemingly weak and slow decisions of our crisis managers.

Incidents of jail break and escape attempts happened several times before. However, no one really knows why this security breach problem still persists.

As far as I recall, Abu Sayyaf and their terrorist partners Al Qaeda are known escape artists. Abu Sabaya, Khadafy Janjalani and Fathur Al-Ghozi are just some of the successful terrorist escapees. And these men are not just some Abu Sayyaf apprentices. They were leaders. Big Fishes. Real-time bandits. Terrorists. However, the seemingly lax security of their detention cells set them free again. And these were in different occasions. The only saving grace for these instances was that Abu Sabaya and Fathur Al-Ghozi were already killed by the military and the police after months of search.

I think we have had enough instances of jail break for us to demand changes in the way we handle our detention cells. Much reform is needed to be done in this area.

Another issue that I have noticed in this “show” was the apparently weak ability of our crisis managers to make a choice on who or when to talk with hostage takers. In this incident, I couldn’t believe that we would waste time and effort to talk with people who killed at least hundreds of men, women and children, and ravaged, kidnapped and decapitated locals and foreigners. I think that by mere common sense, we can easily surmise that these people do not need reprieve. They should not be given the privilege to negotiate.

But of course, we must consider the rule of law and the right of every individual for due process. But I think it should not have taken much time. These Abu men deserved only one ultimatum, not five. They deserved just one day of stardom, not two. If they do not want to negotiate by the given time frame, that just means they do not want to negotiate at all. Decision-makers should show their firm stand to avoid a sequel to this “movie.”

I was on my way to the office when I saw the Abante headline: “PNP, pinaglalaruan ng Abu Sayyaf.” I think with this headline, the crisis managers were not perceived to be merciful, though they were perceived to be toys being played by the terrorists. I think the extended deadlines made our men look more like weaklings.

Even if the Abu Sayyaf men were defeated in the end, they were somehow triumphant in making us realize a very painful reality that we are facing not just a fiscal crisis, but also a security crisis. The Abu Sayyaf assaulted not just on our prison cells, but more importantly on our security egos. After this, I think our crisis managers should consider a firm policy on these kinds of situations. I just hope a “sequel” won’t take place.
Carlo J. Caparas might be interested in making this into a movie...
Trivia trivia
Did you know: Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig houses at least 400 inmates, and 129 of them are Abu Sayyaf members. It would be a real crisis if all of them participated in the recent jail break.

1 comment :

Bubbles said...

asteeg! very-well written!