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Senate panel sets probe on hostage crisis on Thursday

August 24, 2010 6:03pm
The Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs will look into Monday’s bloody hostage incident in Manila where at least eight foreign tourists were killed, according to panel head Sen. Gregorio Honasan.

Honasan on Tuesday said the committee will tackle the issue on Thursday together with the alarming incidents of police torture in the country.

He said they would ask the Philippine National Police (PNP) for a progress report and then “match it" with what was reported in the media.

“Prematurely passing judgment on the handling of the negotiations and the subsequent tactical operations is not in order pending an initial report from the concerned agencies," Honasan said.

Also killed in Monday’s bloodbath was the hostage-taker, Rolando Mendoza, a dismissed policeman who was demanding, among others, his reinstatement into the police force. He was facing charges of misconduct before the Office of the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in an extortion and illegal arrest case.

Call to action

Sen. Pia Cayetano said the incident should prompt the Ombudsman to “be mindful" of its duty to act with dispatch on cases pending before it. “The delay triggered Mendoza’s frustrations," she noted.

She likewise called on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to review its grievance mechanism for police personnel.

Other senators, meanwhile, noted the alleged incompetence of the responding SWAT team which, according to Sen. Francis Pangilinan, could expose the lack of resources within the police organization.

“Our police have long been beleaguered by corruption, thereby leaving them ill-equipped and without proper training to tactically engage threats such as a hostage situation," Pangilinan said.

Negligence, incompetence

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said although the alleged negligence and incompetence of the responding police force should not be excused, “we should also not excuse our own shortcomings in providing for these resources."

Honasan said the 11-hour hostage-taking incident could have been handled much better, but stopped short at putting all the blame to the police force. “We will have to train, train harder and prepare better continuously for an eventuality we pray will never happen again."

Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla, for his part, said the concerned personalities should “admit errors so that they can be rectified and prevented from happening again."

“What is important is we find out what went wrong, and from there, we can hopefully move forward," he said.

All apologies

Sen. Loren Legarda, head of the Senate committee on foreign relations, apologized to all the nationals of China and Hong Kong, especially the relatives of the victims.

“We are sorry that these things happened and had to happen this way. Nobody is happy about it. It is beyond our control. And we are sorry it had to happen," she said in an interview on Tuesday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said there was no need for the Philippine government to apologize to the Hong Kong government.

“Why should we apologize? These things will happen anywhere in the world. There are aberrant people in all society," he said in a separate interview.

But Legarda still expressed worry that what happened might affect the country’s tourism industry. “It is bound to affect our tourism because we live on perception and marketing our country," she said.

During the Senate's session on Tuesday, the chamber adopted Senator Ferdinand Marcos’ Resolution No. 143, which sends a message of empathy and condolence to China and Hong Kong. - KBK, GMANews.TV
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