Mar 30, 2007

[Philippines] The Heartfelt Hostage Taking

Flickr: Jason Abbott: Hostage

In the Philippines, everything has to be a little different I suppose. The funny thing is that even our hostage takers are strangely different if the Armando Ducat, Jr. Incident is any indication.

Early Wednesday morning local time, Armando Ducat, Jr. and a companion took a bus full of 26 children and 4 tutors hostage. The strange thing was that the children were from a daycare center that Ducat himself owned. His demands? He wanted free education until the collegiate level for all children in the daycare - approximately 145 kids - and better housing to be provided for the families. It was a hostage-taking in which the hostage taker couldn't possibly harm his hostages since they were the beneficiaries of his demands.

Ducat's message was supposedly that of protest against the way things are, how the poor get poorer and how Filipinos shouldn't let them lives be run by "traditional" (translated: corrupt) public officials. Of course early into his protest / hostage taking, he also demanded that Senator Bong Revilla, Jr. speak to him. Oh yes, that's clearly showing independence from the politicians he so distrusts.

While the hostage drama ended about 10 hours later with Ducat and his companion surrendering to provincial Governor Chavit Singson without bloodshed, it also ended with his demands promised to be met for the 145 families. Talk about the ends justifying the means. Towards the end, the crowd that had gathered was already chanting in support of the civil engineer, even as he surrendered to the police. Only in the Philippines would major political figures be brought in to handle hostage negotiations instead of the local police, especially in an election year. Oh joy.

This is not the first time Ducat has resorted to extraordinary means to get his message across. He once held two priest hostage in 1989 over allegations of fraud and graft in the running of the diocese but no charges were filed. He also climbed a tower in 1998 to protest a candidate whom he claimed wasn't a full Filipino citizen. he also attempted to run for Congress in 2001 but was disqualified given his history.

This whole situation says a lot about the state of affairs in the country. While I don't approve of what he did (and I'm sure the parents of the 26 kids don't either), you have to admit he raises a valid issue - that there's too much politicking going on in the country and not enough attention is truly being given towards addressing the needs of the public in a meaningful way. At the very least, it's clear the large majority that lives below the economic poverty line don't perceive that the goverment is doing enough for them regardless of what programs are already in place today. The need is part Public Relations, part government focus and visibility.

In the meantime, we can only wait and see if the 145 children will actually get the education and housing promised to them. Now that should be interesting.

Related Links: Photo linked from Jason Abbott's photostream. Picture is unrelated to actual hostage-taking in Manila.

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