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SWAT’s New Meaning: Sorry We Aren’t Trained

August 24, 2010


Wikipedia defines SWAT or special weapons and tactics team as “an elite paramilitary tactical unit in American law enforcement departments.” SWAT team members are considered experts in high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers owing to their special training and expertise. Since they underwent rigorous training and special military exercises,  their duties include performing hostage rescues and counter-terrorism operations, serving high risk arrest and search warrants, subduing barricaded suspects, and engaging heavily-armed criminals. To perform their job well, SWAT team members are equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns, assault rifles, breaching shotguns, riot control agents, stun grenades and sniper rifles. They also carry specialized equipment including heavy body armor, ballistic shields, entry tools, armored vehicles, advanced night vision optics, and motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages or hostage takers inside of an enclosed structure.

However, this is not what the world saw during the August 23 hostage crisis at the Rizal Park. A dismissed police officer named Rolando Mendoza exposed the incompetence, amateurishness and lack of preparedness and equipment of the country’s SWAT team. Because of this, the acronym SWAT has gotten a new meaning: Sorry We Aren’t Trained!

My sincere condolences to the victims’ families.

I read a few comments of foreign observers online with interest and I’d like to reproduce some of those comments here.

A certain Simon Hosanna made the following comment on

watched the whole drama on live TV in Hong Kong. The whole rescue operation was a big joke! The Philippines SWAT team was so amatuer, incompetent, disorganized and ill-equipped to handle the operation. They could neither break the glass panel nor rig open the front door of the bus let alone storm the bus!

When two SWAT members tried to enter the bus through the emergency exit at the back of the bus, they were being fired upon by the gunman. And they exited the bus in no time. At that time, I could hear other members of the SWAT team laughing. It is very disgusting and disappointing to see them behaving like a bunch of school boys. I saw the SWAT team members randomly threw tear gas canisters into the bus through a hole on the glass panel without any objective. Why use tear gas when they couldn’t even storm the bus. I pity all those passengers who were still alive.

The sniper could have shot the gunman earlier when the first hostages were released as I could see the gunman being exposed near the steps of the bus entrance.

I think this sad incident could have been avoided has the bus driver drove on and ignored the gunman who dressed as a policeman when he tried to stop the bus. Just like in any countries, when Police wants to flag down a vehicle, normally, there will be a road block or a few policemen were present. To add insult to injury, the bus driver gave the police incorrect information after his escape by claiming that all the hostages were killed.

The bus driver is indeed a coward! He escaped from the bus at the first opportunity. Like a captain of a ship, he should be the last one to leave his “ship”. He could have played a helpful role if he stayed on in the bus. He could have opened the bus door for the SWAT team to storm the bus. The Philippines Police’s failure to do a professonal job as expected of them has clearly caused the loss of many innocent lives.

A commenter named The Wade also made the following comment:

The role of the police is to try to avoid the loss of any life and that includes the gunman. Having a sniper shoot him while releasing hostages would be a failure and trigger happy because at that point the negotiations were going well as no one had been shot and hostages were being released. No one knew at that time how it would play out.

And the bus driver had no need or obligation to be the last one off the bus. That’s like saying that a building superintendent must be the last person out in a fire. He’s not a trained professional able to handle that situation and is actually just one more liability. To want to get the hell out of a bus with a gunman is a normal response. Not being a hero doesnt automatically make you a coward, it makes you a normal person.

A certain Zhong Guo Ren also made the following comment:

Just too sad a situation.
SWAT team who dared not sweat.
Our hearts go to the innocent tourists.
Tourists bring in money to the Phillipines but bus get hijacked.
Hijacker a former policeman.
A big axe to grind because he was sacked due to alleged corruption.
Should have been shot much earlier.
Now, go to the ends of the world but not to the Phillipines or Indonesia.
If one look back at the 1998 Indonesia riots, you just want a few more tidal tsunamis in that country.
Yet, we donated to the Acehnese.

JohnG also gave his personal observation:

Sincere condolences to the families of the victims.. the handling of the situation was the poorest I’ve seen. A simple request turned into a blood bath. Our police and officials are only good at one thing and that is being corrupt! aside from that they have no balls to even sacrifice themselves for the welfare of the hostages and the people. No clear chain of command, no concrete plan, no execution! I wonder why they still question the public’s confidence in them, now that the whole world is looking at us again as laughing stocks..

KeninChina also had this to say:

I’m not a big fan of Chinese police, but I’ve seen some of their men in action, and I dont mean the big bellied fatties who walk around in their uniforms.

I’ve seen undercover cops pop out of nowhere during CNY at a train station and within two seconds, they had a dozen dudes pinned on the floor. I covered a story during the Olympics and the special cops who were in charge of the various hotspots and these “cops” were of a different caliber than the ones we see at our local police station…

… they were more akin to robots

There’s also a number of youtube videos of Chinese hostage situations where Chinese law enforcements pull off some pretty amazing manuevers.

In all, I believe the biggest problem with the Manila hostage situation was the planning. The man was not a terrorist, he’s just a disgruntled police who’s laid off asking for something that’s easily negotiable. If it were China, they’d negotiate a deal AND THEN shoot him when he thinks he’s in the clear!

And this one from a certain commenter named vic:

Coming from a HK citizen,gotta say the Phillipines police are to blame here.I fully understand hostage situations are not easy and it ending with casualties is not uncommon. But there are few things I really need to point out,first they wasted many opportunities to arrest or kill him in the afternoon.During lunch and when he released some hostages earlier in the afternoon,there are moments where his whole body is exposed to snipers and his hands are not even on the gun.I would like to ask where’s the sniper at that time and wtf is he doing? Before the killer started killing, police spokesman said violence(taking out the hostage taker) is not a priority which is strategically wrong! The gunner is solo,general concensus is you can shoot once you caught him without hostages nearby. Or you could storm the bus the moment he released hostages,you could check video footage,he was really off-guard by then. The mentality of not using lethal force at any possible moments really contribute to the tragedy.

Even you are not going to snipe him ,why not pretend to fulfill all his demands to get hostages released. He wants his job back just tell him you got it,I mean you can always arrest him should he leave the bus,how hard could that be?

That plus trying to use a rope to break open a hydraulics door and fail miserably,slipping a sledgehammer inside the bus which could result in more injuries and did I see a gas bomb bounced back to yourself? I mean come on. And you even arrest his brother to further aggravate the situation.No media blackout,you just draw a zone and allow them broadcast whatever they want during a hostage situation. His family or friends could easily feedback to him via cellphone making him aware that when the police are about to raid.Yea we got clarity but does that save the hostages? No

Seems to me you guys are trying your best to get more dead ppl than alive ones.We don’t expect you guys risking your lives to save foreigners that you hold animosity towards but do you guys have no professionalism at all? Those primitive equipment and ineffective strategy really pissed many of us watching live braodcast,and not just the Chinese I believe.

All in all,I do believe those 8 deaths are totally preventable.No I won’t hate Phillipines ppl after this incident and I believe most Chinese from HK won’t cuz we consider ourselves rational. If there’s anything that we hold grudges on,it’s your incompetent police force,that’s all. No point spreading racial hate any further.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 222 permalink
    August 25, 2010 3:38

    fuck them all

  2. September 14, 2010 3:38

    What…aren’t they trained???how could for them to be called the SWAT team..did they not been trained ??if another hostage happens again..what will happen?they should be train well..Our country would not be able to lift up again if everyday many happens will be very bad for our country..:((Let us pray to God for this weren’t be able to happen again..

  3. December 8, 2010 3:38

    i wont join.

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