There is nothing romantic or heroic about Armando Ducat's actions last Wednesday, when he took hostage 26 children and about 4 teachers, and demanded an end to corruption in the government. True, he did not harm the children, and he kept his word by releasing them at the appointed time. True, the grenade he was holding was probably a dud, just like the ones he used to take hostage two priests about twenty years ago. But, this doesn't change the fact that he brazenly broke the law, several laws from the looks of it.
Reading the Philippine Star, I agree with editor Anna Marie Pamintuan and columnist Alex Magno that Ducat should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, because if he's not, others will probably try to do the same, and, if it happens again, the outcome might not be as peaceful as Wednesday's resolution.
I disagree with Cito Beltran, who tries to wax eloquent and paint Ducat as Don Quixote. I wonder how Beltran would feel if it was his kid who was in that bus; would he be so effusive with praise for Ducat. Ducat is no Quixote; Quixote never endangered children willingly. Ducat is no Robin Hood; Robin Hood would not go to such lengths to fight against the corrupt Prince John.
There are saner ways to speak up against corruption; as Pamintuan said in her column, "being a philanthropist does not give anyone a license to come unhinged and become a public nuisance." One should not put children in the line of fire to be able to make his or her voice heard.
The other point I'd like to comment on was the fact that Ilocos Sur Governor and senatorial candidate Luis "Chavit" Singson was on hand to receive Ducat's surrender; he also gave out P500 to each of the children. Rumors started flying that Singson engineered the whole thing to prop up his flagging chances at getting elected. It's probably not the case, although one has to wonder, considering Singson's own spotty record.
Still, politicians have no business interfering in what is essentially a police matter, and, whether he schemed the whole thing or not, it's clear that Singson aimed to score brownie points by being visible at the end of the crisis, to make it look as if he's the good guy who made the surrender happen.
Stricter measures should be taken in dealing with situations like these. The police have to be able to control the situation, particularly the crowd and the kibitzers. Otherwise, we will probably have to expect another crisis, and we will only have ourselves to blame.
Anna Marie Pamintuan
UPDATE: Having read Ducat's children's comments about the rightness of their father's actions, I wonder what Ducat is teaching his children. True, they are teenagers, and probably not aware of the ramifications or the implications of their father's actions, but to recklessly endanger children to be considered as something right to do, in order to make one's demands heard? I simply cannot agree with that.