(Video, Transcript) Radio interview with Manila bus hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza

James Ryan Jonas

 The role that media played is now at the center of the investigation of the Manila bus hostage-taking last August 23. The main question: Is the media partly to blame for the hostage-taker’s rampage that killed nine Chinese tourists from Hong Kong?
We all saw how the media scrambled to outdo each other on that fateful day. One local Philippine radio station — Radyo Mo Nationwide (RMN) — successfully managed to interview Rolando Mendoza minutes prior to the killings.
Listen to the radio interview and decide whether the media contributed to the tragic ending of this hostage incident.
YouTube Video: Radio interview with the hostage-taker
During the first minutes of the interview, RMN anchor Michael Rogas performed his task as interviewer dutifully. Like any other interviewer, he asked Mendoza what exactly he wanted.
Video (2:35 mark) – How do you want this situation to end?

Michael Rogas (RMN): Captain, sa papaaanong paraan po ninyo gustong matapos itong isyung ito, itong sitwasyong ito? (Captain, how do you want this issue, this situation to end?)
Mendoza: Ayun nga, yung Ombudsman, ang sabi, re-review-hin, rerepasuhin. Ang gusto ko, dalhin nila rito ngayon ang order kung ako’y talagang dismissed. Yung final order nila na ako’y dismissed o na-issue-han ng dismissal order. Yun ang gusto kong mangyari: final order. Yung ginawa kanina, sulat lang ‘yun. Para ako’y ma-satisfy sa harap ng aking in-laws. Hindi tama ‘yun, mali ‘yun. (They said the Ombudsman will review my case. What I want is for them to deliver the order if I’m really dismissed from service. The final order, saying I’m dismissed or was issued a dismissal order. That’s what I want: final order. What they delivered earlier was just a letter. For me to be satisfied in front of my in-laws. That’s not what I want, not that.)
The next question posed by the interviewer raise the question of appropriateness. Is it really proper to ask the hostage-taker what his message was to the police in the area, especially to the snipers moving into position?

Video (3:10) – Your message to the police, especially to the snipers?
RMN: Kapitan, meron po kayong pakiusap sa pamamagitan po ng RMN, nakikinig po ang mga pulis ngayon. May pakiusap kayo sa pulis, lalung-lalo na dun sa mga sniper? (Captain, is there anything you want to tell the police? They are listening to the RMN radio station right now. Do you have anything to say, especially to the snipers?)
 Mendoza: ‘Yang mga sniper, pag hindi sila nagsialis sa kanilang mga pwesto ay sasampolan ko sila. Ii-snipe-in ko ‘kako itong nasa pintuan. (These snipers, if they won’t go away, I’ll give them a sample. I’ll shoot this one at the door.) Note: Masa Tse, the tour guide, was handcuffed by Mendoza at the door of the bus. He was eventually killed.
Video (3:27) – I know the SWAT will kill me
RMN: Ok, sa oras na ito, na quarter to seven na po ang oras dito po sa aming himpilan. Quarter to seven na ng gabi. Ano na po ang huling desisyon ninyo? (Ok, it’s now quarter to seven p.m. (that is, 6:45p.m.). What is your final decision?)

Mendoza: Eh wala na po. Kasi nakikita ko ang dami nang SWAT na dumarating. Ang daming SWAT na dumarating, nakikita ko sa palibot. Ako naman, alam ko papatayin din nila ako. Kaya magsialis na sila dahil anytime, gagawin ko ‘yun dito. (I see that a lot of SWAT are coming. Many SWAT members are here, I see them all around. I know that they will kill me. So they better go away because anytime soon, I’ll do the same here on the bus.)
The question by the radio interviewer reeked of urgency: “It’s now quarter to seven p.m., what is your final decision?”
Makes one wonder what the radio anchor wanted the hostage-taker to say. That he will surrender? Or worse, that he will start executing those innocent Chinese tourists?
The situation started turning for the worst when Mendoza saw on TV that his brother was being arrested by the police.
YouTube Video: GMA 7 reports that police is arresting brother of hostage-taker

Mendoza saw the exact same scene live on TV. His indignation was recorded in the radio interview that was still ongoing. By this time, he had started to become agitated.

Video (4:21) – Show my brother being freed or I’ll shoot the people on the bus!

Mendoza: Oh, yung kapatid ko nakikita ko, bakit nila ginaganyan? Akong may kasalanan dito, walang kasalanan ‘yan! Walang kasalanan ‘yan. Ipakita niyo na pinakawalan ninyo kapatid ko! Ipakita nila, pagka hindi titirahin ko ang mga nandirito sa loob! (I see my brother (on TV), what are they doing to him? I’m the one at fault here, not him! He’s not at fault. Show that he’s being freed! Show it or I’ll shoot the people inside the bus!)
RMN: Kalma lang po… (Please remain calm…)
Mendoza: Sabihin mo sa kanila, sabihin mo sa kanila ‘yan! (Tell them that, tell them that!)
RMN: Opo, tinatawagan na po… (Yes, we’re already calling…)
Mendoza: Ipakita nila, ipakita nila dito sa kaliwa, sa kaliwa! Makita ko sa kaliwa ng bus. Palakarin nila ang kapatid ko diyan! Pagka hindi… ito, talagang ano. Aanuhin ko dito lahat-lahat. (Show it, show it at the left! Make sure I see it at the left side of the bus. Make my brother walk away! Or else, I’ll… I’ll…)
RMN: Opo, tinatawagan na po namin ang PNP. Easy lamang po… (Yes, we’re already calling the PNP (Philippine National Police). Please take it easy…)
The hostage-taker became more passionate and emotional as scenes of his brother being dragged by the police was shown on live TV which he was able to monitor via the TV inside the bus.
Video (5:06) – This will only get worse because of what the police are doing!
Mendoza: Ayan o, binibitbit ‘yung kapatid kong pulis. Walang kasalanan ‘yan, bakit nila bibitbitin yan? Sasabihin nila, accessory, hindi accessory ‘yan! Ako lang mag-isa ang gumawa nito. Ayan nakikita ko. Nakikita ko ‘yung ginagawa nila sa kapatid ko, ayun o! Pulis yan eh, walang kasalanan ‘yan! Walang kasalanan ‘yan! (Oh, they’re arresting my policeman brother. He’s not at fault, why are they arresting him? They’d say, accessory, he’s not an accessory! I’m the only one who did this. I’m seeing it. I see what they’re doing to my brother. He’s a police, he doesn’t know anything about this! He’s not pat of this!)
Mendoza: Pakawalan nila ‘yan, pagka hindi, eto, babarilin ko ‘yung nasa unahan! Sabihin mo sa kanila. Sabihin mo sa kanila. Ayan o, nakikita ko rito, ayun o, nasa TV. Ginagawa nilang baboy ang kapatid ko na pulis! Walang kasalanan ‘yan! Hindi niya alam ang pangyayaring ito. Ngayon niya lang nalaman sa TV. Bakit nila gaganyanin? Wala ‘yan. Walang kasalanan ‘yan! (Let him go, or I’ll shoot this one at the door! Tell them that. Tell them that! I’m seeing it here, it’s on TV!  They’re treating my policeman brother like a pig! He’s not at fault. He doesn’t know anything. He knew this just now on TV. Why are they doing that to him? He’s not a part of this!)
Video (6:18) – RMN Exclusive!
Mendoza: Ayun o. Ito, lalala lamang ito sa ginagawa ng mga pulis na ‘yan! Sabihin mo sa kanila. P*tangina! O, hindi nila pakakawalan ‘yan? P*tangina! Oh, babarilin ko na ito! Pakawalan ninyo ‘yan! Babarilin ko na ito! (This will only get worse because of what the police are doing! Tell them that! F*ck! They would not set him free? F*ck! I’ll shoot this person (tour guide handcuffed at the bus door)! Set my brother free! I’ll shoot this one at the door!)

RMN: Sandali po. Huwag po kayong magpapaputok. Captain Mendoza… (To Erwin Tulfo) Pakibilisan lang yung ground commander… (Hold on. Do not fire your gun. Captain Mendoza… (To Erwin Tulfo) Erwin, please hurry to the ground commander…)
Mendoza: Ayan pinosas na! ‘Pag hindi nila pinakawalan ‘yan, babarilin ko na ‘to! (They already handcuffed him! If they won’t set him free, I’ll shoot this person!)
RMN: Captain Mendoza, tinutulungan na po namin kayo… (Captain Mendoza, we’re already helping you…)
In the middle of this commotion, you can hear at the 6:18 mark on the video that the radio still managed to squeeze in a plug saying “RMN Exclusive!” — a proud remark that they are the only one at the heart of this hostage drama that, seconds later, would end tragically.
Whether the media is partly at fault for the pitiful outcome of this incident is a matter of personal opinion. We won’t anymore argue our stand but our only hope is that, in the future, media will responsibly perform its task of reporting and providing information — not aggravate situations — and help crisis such as this reach a triumphant conclusion, not a grim ending.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.