Botched SWAT operations are nothing new in a country where mediocrity is more the rule than the exception. As Benjamin Pimentel mentioned in his kwento kwnto, back in the late 70's and early 80's the Philippine police's SWAT team was even then already known as the "Special Weapons 'Alang Tactics" team ('alang being a Tagalog contraction of the word "no"). Pimentel refers to a bank robbery siege in Cubao back then that he -- surprise, surprise -- described as a "bizarre police operation"...
The cops didn't seem to know what to do.
They made sure to take their pa-pogi (look-good) combat poses in front of the TV cameras, holding their M-16 rifles a la Steve Forrest -- even bystanders could be seen smiling, waiting for them to make their move and for the confrontation to escalate.
What is really noteworthy in the above account of a similar incident 30 years ago (aside from the already well-established incompetence of the Philippine police) are two disturbingly familiar observations -- (1) cops striking a pose and (2) smiling bloodthirsty bystanders.
Fast forward to today in the Year 2010, the words of eminent Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros may as well have been uttered back in that 1970's Cubao bank robbery siege...
"What the hell kind of people are we?";
...as he described the mob at the scene of the present-day tourist bus tragedy...
That was the one that surged toward the door of the bus as bodies were being lifted out, that minded being pushed aside by the cops while they gaped, gawked and took pictures with their cellphones. That was the one that rushed there, surged there, and stood there unmindful of the rain, unmindful of the emergency, unmindful of the dead, staring at the blood and gore without compassion or commiseration, staring at the blood and gore only with curiosity.
What kind of a people are we? We are the bunch of people who live in a place where asia wears a smile as the old Philippine tourism slogan goes.
President Noynoy Aquino -- and his smile -- merely reflect the people he, just a few months ago, giddily put his hand up to lead.