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Taguig hostage-taker meets bloody end; 4 captives safe

The almost 24-hour hostage drama at the Taguig City Hall of Justice ended with the death of Al Bautista a.k.a. Almario Villegas, hostage-taker of four individuals, dzBB reported on Wednesday. DzBB reported at about 2 p.m. that Bautista died after seven shots were heard from the hall. It was also reported that about 1:30 p.m., Bautista tried to jump from the building's window. The grenade brought by Bautista inside the hall also exploded near the stairs of the building, minutes before he died, dzBB said. Metro Manila Police Chief Reynaldo Varilla told dzBB they haven't determined the cause of Bautista's death. Varilla said Bautista would be subjected to an autopsy at the Veronica Funeral Homes in Pasay City. First shot Based on initial report, Bautista was supposed to turn himself in to police, after he agreed to a surrender plan. However, investigators said that after agreeing to surrender, Bautista fired a shot at the policemen whom he saw getting into the second floor where he was staying. This prompted the police to retaliate. The police said they did not assault Bautista, because the first shot came from the hostage-taker. DzBB said the four hostages namely Gina Ramos, her lawyer Frederic Ballesteros, clerk of court Donnalee Dunuan and court stenographer Liwanag Saloma are safe. Dunuan and Ballesteros were brought to the Manila Doctor's Hospital in U.N. Avenue, Ermita, Manila. Meanwhile, the police also brought out from the hall, Delia dela Cruz, Bautista's girlfriend. Dela Cruz was with Bautista when the hostage drama started on Tuesday. The four hostages would undergo debriefing, the police said. Bautista reportedly maltreated Ramos and Ballesteros. Ramos, who appeared dazed, suffered from bruises, while Ballesteros was bloodied by Bautista's blows. DzBB said the police would bring Dela Cruz, Dunuan and Saloma to the Taguig PNP's Criminal Investigation Division to get their statements on the incident. Surrender plan Investigators said that part of the plan was the surrender of Bautista's hand gun and grenades. Varilla said Bautista told the police that he was carrying four grenades. But Varilla said they only recovered two, including the one that exploded. The police also agreed to Bautista's request for a get-away car. A private vehicle was awaiting for Bautista when he fired the first shot. The police said Bautista requested for a private vehicle because he was "afraid" to ride a police car. The police said that for one day, they repeatedly convince Bautista that "they were there not to bring another burden but to help him." But the police said Bautista was fickle-minded. They said Bautista's mood swung "from low pitch to high pitch", thus it was difficult for the police to assess his state of mind. Angered by the prolonged hostage crisis, Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, meanwhile, on Wednesday ordered a review of security measures in courts nationwide. DzBB reported that Puno also ordered security tightened in all courts to prevent a repeat of security lapses that led to the hostage crisis. It said that as of Wednesday morning, courts in the Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas-Valenzuela (Camanava) area had already tightened security. Puno directed Supreme Court administrator Christopher Lock to get to the bottom of security details in the Taguig hall of justice, and submit his recommendations soonest. Earlier, Taguig Mayor Sigfrido Tinga said the city government plans to investigate guards at the hall of justice for the lapse that allowed the hostage takers to bring in weapons. Bautista, a stunt man, was with Dela Cruz when he held the four individuals at the justice hall at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Land dispute DzBB reported that Bautista was angered by Dela Cruz's land dispute with Ramos. The dispute ripened into a four-year old case. Bautista reportedly flared up after Ramos disagreed to a proposed postponement of pre-trial proceedings. On Wednesday morning, dzBB reported that Bautista demanded a P 3 million ransom from the family of Ramos. But there were other reports that Baustista was not asking for ransom but for payment on a land transaction between Ramos and Dela Cruz. He pulled out a handgun and brandished a grenade. Authorities are still clueless as to how the firearm was able to make its way inside the courtroom undetected. Earlier, a woman looked out of the second floor, shouting requests that GMA News reporter Emil Sumangil speak with the hostage-takers. The Hall of Justice is right across the NCRPO headquarters, home of the PNP command for Metro Manila. On Tuesday, parents of the nearby Upper Bicutan Elementary School came in droves to pick up their children from school, fearing an escalation of violence. A growing number of onlookers have gathered at the scene. Later in the day, the school principal decided to suspend classes. -GMANews.TV