Senate probe reveals lapses in resolving hostage crisis

19:04, August 26, 2010      

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Philippine police committed serious lapses in resolving Monday's hostage crisis which left nine people dead, a senior government official admitted in a Senate investigation Thursday.

"I admit that they (the police) bungled it, they could have done it better," Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in a joint hearing by the committees on public order and justice.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is under the jurisdiction of the DILG.

"We're not abdicating responsibility," Robredo said, adding that what is important now is to "strengthen institutions instead of doing personal solutions on the cases."

The day-long hearing was attended by Robredo and the team that participated in the negotiation with the hostage taker including Police Director Leocadio Santiago Jr., regional director of the National Capital Regional Office; Police Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual, commander of the Manila Police Department's (MPD) special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team; Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, MPD chief and Manila Vice Mayor Francisco Moreno.

The Senate investigation revealed several lapses in the police handling of negotiations with the hostage taker, dismissed police inspector Rolando Medoza.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. asked why Mendoza's younger brother, Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza was in the negotiations and why did the police later arrested him without warrant. This event apparently incensed Mendoza who killed some of the Hong Kong tourists he hostaged inside the tourist bus.

Magtibay revealed that it Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim who ordered the arrest Gregorio.

Revilla was also surprised that the negotiators didn't just give what Mendoza wanted all along - which is to be reinstated and to receive his benefits"

"It's so simple. You can give heaven and earth just to get the hostages safely," he said.

Pascual, who command's Manila's SWAT Team, admitted that they don't have enough equipment, but noted that they're experienced enough to handle the crisis.

The police weren't able to rescue the hostages and this implied that there's lack of training and equipment, noted Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

"It's more of a logistics problem," he said.

Santiago, regional director at the PNP's National Capital Regional Office, said the PNP needs 100 million pesos (2.20 million U.S. dollars) annually for additional personnel, training and equipment.

The eleven-hour long hostage-taking incident in the Philippine capital ended with eight tourists from Hong Kong dead. The hostage taker was also killed during the crossfire with the police forces.

Mendoza seized the tourist bus early Monday morning. At least 25 people, mostly Hong Kong visitors, were aboard the bus.



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