Ex-cop holds tourist bus passengers hostage in Manila
"The hostages are all okay," National Capital Region Police Office Director Bro. Leocadio Santiago said.
As of posting time, nine hostages have already been released, including children, the elderly, and a 19-year-old Filipino photographer Rigor Cruz. The ninth passenger to be released was a 64-year-old Filipino.
Contrary to earlier reports, five Filipinos, not three, were held captive by dismissed police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza inside the bus, including a driver, photographer, and interpreter.
As of posting time, three Filipinos are still on the bus, along with 15 tourists, all Chinese nationals. The hostages are passengers of the Hong Thai travel bus.
The freed hostages were brought to the community precinct near the Rizal Park, where they were given medical attention.
Chief Inspector Erwin Margarejo, spokesman of the Manila Police District, identified the hostage-taker as former Senior Inspector Rolando del Rosario Mendoza, who is facing charges of misconduct at the Office of the Ombudsman.
MPD Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador serve as the chief negotiators in the crisis situation.
Margarejo added that Mendoza's son, Bangued, Abra policeman Bismarck Mendoza, asked to be fetched by a helicopter so that he can speak with his father in Manila.
PNP: Safety of hostages is priority
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa has deployed police personnel to the scene to prioritize the safety of the hostages.
"The general guidance of the Chief PNP is to strictly observe to the letter, the Police Operational Procedures (POP) on Hostage-Crisis Situations with paramount emphasis on the safety of the hostages," said a statement posted on the Philippine government's Official Gazette.
Verzosa also ordered the policemen on the ground to prevent the situation from affecting the normal situation in the city.
North-bound Buendia flyover going to Luneta and the south drive of Katigbak Road (near Roxas Boulevard) are temporarily closed, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) reported.
Dismissed from service
Mendoza, a native of Naic, Cavite but currently resides in Tanauan, Batangas, was formerly with the Manila police's mobile patrol but was dismissed from the service due to charges of extortion and illegal arrest.
During the hostage taking, Mendoza made three demands, including the dismissal of his case before the Ombudsman.
"I want a decision of my cases to be delivered personally by the following persons," the dzRH report quoted Mendoza as saying in a demand written on a piece of cartolina and placed on the bus' windshield.
The hostage-taker is about to retire on January 10, 2011. Mendoza was a former recipient of the 1986 Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines of the Jaycees International.
Earlier at the standoff, Mendoza flashed this message: "Big mistake to correct a big wrong decision."
In the afternoon, Mendoza posted new messages near at the door of the bus: "Big deal will start after 3:00 p.m. today." and "Three p.m. today deadlock."
However, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza requested his brother, the hostage-taker, for an extension of 30 minutes after the latter posted this message at the bus door.
"Nung nagkausap kami, sabi niya wala na daw saysay ang buhay niya kasi tatanggalin daw ng PNP yung retirement bay at benefits niya," said Gregorio, whose brother will retire next year.
"Sabi rin niya, PNP can't give dismissal order kapag pending ang motion for reconsideration," the hostage-taker's brother said.
As of posting time, another gallon of gasoline was loaded into the air-conditioned bus. At noon, Yebra and Salvador loaded gasoline into the bus.
Mendoza: "Media now"
At past 4:00 p.m., Mendoza has sought for an interview with a broadcast journalist to help him negotiate with authorities for his demand to be reinstated to work as a law enforcer.
However, police negotiators — Manila Police District Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador — said they are still waiting for "orders from higher authorities."
The intervention of media came about after he posted a message calling for a media personality: "Media now."
Mendoza is facing charges such as robbery, robbery-extortion, grave threats and physical injuries.
Charges of misconduct
A year ago, after he was dismissed from service, Mendoza became "busy fixing his extortion case," said Margarejo.
He added that Mendoza reportedly became impatient while waiting for the resolution of his motion for reconsideration so he decided to take hostages.
"The snail-pace justice system prodded Mendoza to [take hostages]," said Margarejo in Filipino.
Wants to return to service
"Gusto niyang mabigyan ng attention ang kaso niya," Manila mayor Alfredo Lim said in an interview in radio dzBB. "Gusto niyang makabalik sa serbisyo."
Lim said he has already instructed the MPD to "resolve the hostage-taking peacefully."
The dzRH report said Mendoza was formerly with the Manila police's mobile patrol.
Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador have headed the negotiations with the hostage taker.
The armalite-bearing Mendoza has been giving messages to police negotiators through pieces of paper.
The hostage-taking incident occurred in front of the Quirino Grandstand, some 150 meters away from a police precinct.
Son to be brought to Manila
As he started releasing some of his hostages, Mendoza demanded that his son be brought to Manila via helicopter.
Radio dzBB reported that the hostage-taker wanted an Air Force helicopter to take his son to the site.
However, Philippine Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Okol said there was no official request from the negotiating team so far.
"There is no official request so far. We're monitoring the situation," Okol said on dzBB radio.
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning head Ricky Carandang said Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and now conducting "stress debriefing" for the freed hostages.
Carandang said the freed hostages have been brought back to their hotel and are being provided free food and accommodation.
"They (Lim, Soliman) are doing everything they can to help [the freed hostages] cope with the stressful situation and make the remainder of their stay as comfortable as possible," Carandang said.
"We will not comment now on efforts to free the hostages so as not to impede the authorities," the Palace official said.
It can be recalled that civil engineer Jun Ducat, a day-care center owner, held more than 30 youngsters and teachers hostage on a bus some time in 2007.
The standoff, which Ducat used to denounce corruption and demand better lives for impoverished children, lasted about 10 hours.
He was charged with 32 counts of illegal detention and abduction, illegal possession of explosives and illegal possession of firearms. –with Sophie Dedace, Jesse Edep, Jam L. Sisante/VVP/KBK, GMANews.TV