Assault starts vs Manila hostage-taker — report
Rapid fire was heard at around 8:18 p.m., the live report said. A civilian was hit by a stray bullet and was rushed to hospital.
The assault came minutes after the bus driver escaped from the bus. Shots were also heard sporadically within the vicinity of the scene.
The report said that around 30 SWAT members were involved in the assault. Some of the policemen pounded at the bus windows using sledgehammers.
The police immobilized the bus by shooting at its tires.
At least two teargas canisters were lobbed into the bus as policemen struggled to open the door.
At least four mobile police cars continued to advance toward the bus in different directions, according to "24 Oras." Ambulances with red lights flashing were also seen at the vicinity of the hostage crisis.
Moments after shots were fired, the driver of the bus, who was earlier reported handcuffed to the steering wheel, escaped.
The shots forced media men covering the hostage crisis to scamper for safety, said GMA News anchor Mike Enriquez in his report.
There was no movement inside the bus, the report further said.
In a separate report, GMA News reporter Raffy Tima said the shots were fired after the bus showed signs of driving off where it was parked in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park.
The shots were also fired minutes after SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of hostage-taker former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was arrested by elements of the Manila Police District (MPD).
Nine of the more than 20 passengers of the bus, most of them Chinese tourists, had already been released and are now undergoing stress debriefing.
The standoff began at about 9:30 a.m.
Sharpshooters take positions
In the morning, police sharpshooters took positions around the white-blue-red bus. The road was sealed off as officers negotiated with the hostage-taker.
In the afternoon, Mendoza released two women, three children, a diabetic man and three Filipinos.
MPD chief Rodolfo Magtibay said Mendoza demanded to have his job back as a law enforcer after he was dismissed from the service.
Mendoza was reportedly one of the five officers charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats after they allegedly accused a chef of the Manila Hotel of using drugs to extort money some time in 2008.
While releasing some of his hostages, Mendoza demanded that his son be brought to Manila via an Air Force helicopter. But Philippine Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Miguel Okol said, "There is no official request so far. We're monitoring the situation."
Mendoza wrote some of his demands on paper and posted it on the bus windows.
Before noon, he posted: "Big mistake to correct a big wrong decision."
He later plastered new messages such as "Big deal will start after 3 p.m. today." and "Three p.m. today dead lock."
Gregorio Mendoza asked another 30 minutes from his brother — the hostage-taker — to express to the media his demands.
"Nung nagkausap kami, sabi niya wala na daw saysay ang buhay niya kasi tatanggalin daw ng [Philippine National Police] yung retirement pay at benefits niya," said Gregorio, whose brother will retire on January 10, 2011.
"Sabi rin niya, PNP can't give dismissal order kapag pending ang motion for reconsideration," the hostage-taker's brother said.
Later Mendoza asked hostage negotiators — Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador — to load up another gallon of gasoline into the air-conditioned bus. Earlier in the day, he asked that the bus be refueled.
Mendoza plastered again a new message on the bus windows. It noted: "Media now."
He sought for an interview with a broadcast journalist to help him negotiate with authorities for his demand to be reinstated to work.
Mendoza was formerly with the Manila police's mobile patrol. Mendoza was a former recipient of the 1986 Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines of the Jaycees International.
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 Jerrie Abella/KBK/VS, GMANews.TV