On Hostage Negotiation
ON THE MATTER OF DEALING WITH HOSTAGE OR CRISIS SITUATIONS
“…almost everything else about the official handling of the case, especially the police response, can only be described as fatally incompetent.”
—PDI August 25, 2010 Editorial
There is always a dilemma in responding to a hostage situation. Authorities are not supposed to give in to the demands of the hostage-taker otherwise, anybody will be encouraged to be copy-cats or would resort to said approach when asking for something—grand or not. And yet despite that neutral stand, authorities are expected to be calm, calculating and yes intelligent enough to weigh in options so that negotiations could lead towards the safety of those in captivity, less damage to whatever valuable items in the area and without, and this is ideal, firing a single shot.
It has oftentimes been observed that authorities are found wanting when it comes to dealing with crisis. Instead of wearing down the hostage-taker, it is they who are easily worn down. Their prescription to crisis is not different from the tact taken by the hostage taker himself. They would both do it initially through cajoling and failure to achieve an immediate response would proceed to assault with wanton violence. The result is instant: death and destruction in every corner where the hostage situation got stalled.
There is such a thing as patience when dealing with critical situations. There is no such thing as a hasty move when the stakes are high. The safety of those in the line is foremost and therefore every finer detail in dealing should be considered. Pride, poise, composure even integrity should be set aside in the course of establishing a strategy of concluding a crisis. Violence and strength are never a factor that should enter into the equation of the negotiation. Remember that a person who snapped and became convinced in running amuck had no more options available and that the hard-line position of the hostage-taker should rather be used as spring board of every negotiation. The main point is to restore stability. To restore a situation with an almost clinical calmness to an otherwise stressful condition. To restore balance even if in the process it would look from a distance that it is almost skewed in favor of the hostage-taker. Even if the negotiation has taken a longer route, when the safety of the hostages assured, the situation is still favorable and on the winning side. It is a matter of, as it has been emphasized earlier, wearing down the hostage-taker or to borrow an archaic expression as in the market parlance, matira matibay sa tawaran. We must always remember that buying peace, restoring everything back to normalcy is the principal aim of ending a crisis.
Law enforcement should tap the exposure of those in the field of corrections. Patience is an attribute of any veteran correctional officer. He deals almost on a daily basis all the stressful conditions obtaining in an atmosphere of incarceration—the same condition as in a hostage situation where persons are placed in captivity, not by an authority though, but by a desperate person. What happens however—in every instance where there is hostage situation— is the reverse.
Law enforcement has become a principal sanctuary also of those who graduate from war college—Philippine Military Academy, where battle lines are taught to the point of determining it at an instinctive glance and where perceived combat matters are studied as they are clearly drawn. Those on the other side are enemies, and enemies ought to be wiped out. That is war, that is how warriors are trained, that is what PMA education is for. PMAers are trained to face up against the enemies of the state. As they are introduced into law enforcement and eventually become the pall bearers of the law enforcement agency, they would infuse the view that offenders, the ordinary felons and those who unfortunately are, even among the ranks in their respective agency, who would unfortunately commit a lapse or violation, become easily the targets, the enemies so to speak, and therefore the targets that should be eliminated. Simply put, those who should be wiped out.
The soldiery is a noble class. In Japan, they are a class in itself, the Samurai. In ancient times, they are the Crusaders. They deal with aliens, with invading armies, protecting the people from outside forces. But when they become law enforcers, they bring into the field a military outlook and armed orientation. As they apply war principles on the ground, they would begin to wage war with their own kind. This arrangement is indeed unfair for those who sent these soldiers to be trained to kill and in the course, training their arms against the very people who sent them to learn lethal and combat skills. Yet that is what is obtaining. Our police officials are trained military combatants. Only a handful though of PMAers proves exceptional.
During Martial Law, the line between law enforcement and military science became blurred. The police wanted to look like soldiers. On the other hand, the military wanted to perform their functions as if they were policemen. The interchange, the assimilation had fatal consequence on the public in general. The police treat the people as if they are conquered subjects. The military on the other hand pounces on the people as suspect and therefore a sector which should be hamletted if not exterminated even if someone committed a simple felony.
This simple orientation exchange would have a telling effect not only on governance but in the entire criminal justice administration of the country. This situation pushes the people to rebel that are if they are not shoved into acts of terrorism in response to this monster. The polarity grows as we leave this arrangement unchecked.
I have to explore this angle if only to expose the so called seedling bank, the nursery at it were of desperation. When the people are left to fend for themselves, defending their sanity, protecting their peace of mind against the assault of an unfortunate police-military orientation, then we have ripened extreme anxiety. It can be said that it is desperation that drives people to become nuts. It is desperation that makes people to be suicidal and become unreasonable. Authorities expected to maintain public safety would arrest people extra judicially and make them hostages. And while in their custody, they become subject of torture. It is commonplace even if not captured on video cam. It is there. Any objection is even ignored since the complainant would merely be referring his allegation against a system that nurtures it.
Sociologically, Filipinos are never that desperate at all. Suicide is never a social attribute. But when push comes to shove, when frustration breaches the threshold, then hell breaks loose. Worst, the cure is not at all a treatment. Hell is met by hell. And then after the air is cleared and analysis has been overcome by self interest or subdued by interest groups, authorities would merely quip, shoulders slowly ascending, expressing grief and sympathy, praying that the incident would sooner be forgotten until another incident happens which by all indication would again transpire.
This is no longer a defined limitation but a redefined and self-imposed frailty inspired by way of ignorance, not only as a simple limitation or weakness but a defect after all!