TEN months, nine lives, and a flurry of finger-pointing and paper work later, the controversy over the media coverage of the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking incident by the country’s biggest and most influential television and radio networks has come down to feeble fines of P30,000, and a virtual slap on the wrist.
The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), the national association of owners and operators of radio and television stations in the country, has levied fines on two major television networks and one radio network for broadcasting information that it ruled could have compromised police efforts to rescue the hostages during the day-long hostage-taking incident at the Quirino Grandstand on Aug. 23, 2010.
The media are not only failing to regulate themselves; more importantly, some media organizations are actually depending on the government to intervene, in effect eroding the very principle of self-regulation itself.
IT ALL started late night of April 9, 2008 when Christian M. Kalaw was arrested by the police for alleged illegal parking and driving without license in Manila.
Two years and four months later, on August 23, 2010 one of those Christian accused of robbery, extortion, grave threats, and physical injuries commandeered a tourist bus and proceeded to hold its occupants hostage.
The hostage-taker would have an 11-hour standoff with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team of the Manila Police District (MPD). When it ended, nine people lay dead inside the Hong-Thai tourist bus, which was parked at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila: the hostage taker himself, Senior Inspector (Captain) Rolando Mendoza, and eight Hong Kong nationals.
When the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) on the August 23 Quirino Grandstand hostage incident finally uses the word “extort,” it almost seems like an afterthought. The word is buried in the second to the last paragraph of the last page of the report it submitted a month ago to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
“This is our society,” the report concludes. “It drives otherwise ordinary and simple men to turn into murdering monsters at a snap. Because they feel oppressed and need justice but are asked for money. They ask for redemption but are faced with extortion. Officials without shame, policemen without competence, politicians without care, reporters without conscience, a nation without luck. Mendoza was only the instrument in the murder of eight innocent human beings.”
ON THE day he received the 82-page report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) about the Rizal Park Hostage-taking Incident – and without even a full reading of its contents – President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III had blurted out: “Napatapang ‘ata masyado ah. Bakit kasama pa sila Puno, Lim, at Verzosa?” [It’s too strongly worded. Why are we implicating Puno, Lim and Verzosa?]
This is according to some of those present at the IIRC’s meeting with Aquino last Sept. 17. The president was, of course, referring to Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Interior and Local Government Secretary Rico E. Puno, and then Philippine National Police Director General Jesus A. Verzosa, who are among his closest personal and political allies.
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