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Why the Manila Hostage Crisis Response Failed
Source: futuregov
Source Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Country: Philippines
Created: Sep 28, 2010

The Manila hostage crisis, which resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists on 23rd August 2010, gives a lesson in what not to do in an emergency response scenario, a leading security expert has said in an interview with FutureGov.

The handling of the siege failed because of an ineffective emergency first response and the absence of a crisis management plan, Joel Jesus Supan, the former Vice President of Security, Safety and Compliance at Aboitiz Transport System, told FutureGov.

The response to the 11-hour standoff, which ended when the Philippine police stormed the bus, throwing tear gas into the vehicle before opening fire, was described as “bungled” and “incompetent” by the local and international media.

“The success of a crisis response depends on the effectiveness of the emergency first response, and it is obvious in this case that the first response did not work,” said Supan. “The reaction team was not following a pre-written crisis management plan. Because there wasn’t one.”

The management of information between emergency services and the media was also flawed, Supan said.

Images of the hostage taker Rolanda Mendoza’s brother being arrested, seen by Mendoza on an onboard TV screen, are believed to have provoked him to execute the first of his victims.

Every major TV network in the Philippines, Hong Kong’s two major satellite networks, and global news channels CNN and BBC News provided live coverage of the siege, which was quickly available on YouTube.

“A crisis management plan should include a policy and a mechanism for information sharing and a team with a designated leader to manage it,” Supan said.

“All information gathered about the incident should be directed to this team. No information about the incident should go out without clearance from this team. This policy should be enforced strictly.”

This will ensure uniformity of information disclosed with “reasonable transparency”, but at the same time manage sensitive information which would hamper the crisis management operation if exposed.

Had mobile CCTV cameras been positioned inside the bus, the authorities would have had a real-time assessment of hostage-taker, Supan concluded.

“But it was the other way around. The perpetrator was armed with more information than the authorities, which ultimately proved fatal.”

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