Hearing finds lack of coordination lead to collapse of Philippine hostage negotiations

21:32, September 06, 2010      

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Lack of coordination combined with the absence of a dedicated hostage negotiating unit led to the collapse of the negotiations for the release of hostages inside the hijacked tourist bus last August 23.

This was revealed Monday in the ongoing public hearings conducted by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) .

The IIRC is a multisectoral team, headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, tasked to probe the hostage crisis that left eight tourists from Hong Kong dead.

Superintendent Orlando Yebra, who acted as chief hostage negotiator, told IIRC members that they followed two different protocols during the hostage crisis.

"I have no idea what the other people are doing, the set-up is topsy-turvy. I was busy with negotiations," he said.

Yebra said under the crisis management manual, the Crisis Management Committee should be headed by a local chief executive who has direct supervision over the ground commander. Under him are action groups such as the negotiating team, service group which include the intelligence team and medical team, and public affairs group which coordinates with the media.

But during the hostage-taking incident, Yebra was only directly communicating with Manila Police District Director Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, Magtibay and PNP director for legal services, Chief Superintendent Herold Ubalde were at the command post near the hostage site.

Yebra also revealed that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has neither a dedicated negotiating team and nor a manual on hostage taking crisis.

Yebra himself is not a member of any hostage negotiating division. His official position is chief of legal department of the Manila Police District (MPD). He attended several hostage- negotiating courses in the U.S.

"What we have is a manual in crisis management, hostage negotiation is only integrated there," he added.

Yebra said that he wasn't given any intelligence support during the day-long standoff. This, he said, is crucial in such situations. According to him, information on the structure of the bus, the identities of the hostages and the mental state of the hostage taker would have helped in the negotiation. He said was only getting his information about the hostages and the hostage- taker from his assistant, Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador.

Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of the slain hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza, told the review panel that his fear for his life spurred him to make a commotion to get media attention at the height of the hostage crisis.

The police's arrest of Gregorio, which was witnessed by the hostage taker at the television monitor inside the tourist bus, is said to have angered Rolando. This pushed him to kill some of the hostages.

The IIRC will continue to conduct hearings in the next two days. On Tuesday, broadcasters Erwin Tulfo, Michael Rogas, Jake Maderazo and Susan Enriquez are scheduled to attend the hearing.

Tuesday afternoon, the panel will conduct an ocular inspection of the hostage site at the Quirino Grandstand.

On Wednesday, the IIRC will interview tour bus driver Alberto Lubang and other members of the MPD. They will then proceed to PNP 's headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City where the hijacked bus was stored. The IIRC will conduct a reenactment of the hostage taking inside the tour bus.

The IIRC's findings will then be submitted to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III for appropriate action.

Source: Xinhua


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