It all started when a dismissed policeman armed with an automatic rifle seized a bus with 25 passengers aboard, most of them Hong Kong tourists, in a bid to demand his reinstatement.
Police sharpshooters took positions around the white-blue-red bus, which was parked near a downtown Manila park, and negotiations to free the hostages were under way, deputy director of Manila police Alex Gutierrez said.
Two of the Hong Kong tourists, both women, were released and were being debriefed by police, Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay said. Police had earlier reported that the tourists were from South Korea but later corrected themselves.
Others on the bus included three Filipinos — a driver, a guide and a photographer, Magtibay said.
The hostage-taker, identified as former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was armed with an M16 rifle. He demanded that he be given back his job on the police force a year after he was fired, Magtibay said.
Mendoza hitched a ride on the bus from the historic walled city of Intramuros and then "declared he is taking the passengers hostage" when the bus reached Jose Rizal Park alongside Manila Bay.
The area also includes the seaside U.S. Embassy and a number of hotels.
The curtains on the bus windows were drawn and live TV footage showed two police negotiators walking to and from the bus and communicating with Mendoza from the window near the driver's seat.
Magtibay said they were also using the driver's cell phone to talk to Mendoza.
At least 22 foreign nationals and three Filipinos were taken hostage by Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza inside a bus parked near the Quirino Grandstand in Ermita
As of 12:15 p.m, at least six hostages were already released but authorities declined to divulge the suspect's demands.
The MPD Spokesman identified five of the six Hongkong national as Tsan Yee Lai, 40, Fuchak Yin, 10, Wong Chin Nat, 12, Fu Chang Yin, 4, and Diana Chan.
The five released hostages were taken to the nearest precinct to get their statements before taking them to the hospital for stress de-briefing.
Initial investigation disclosed that the former police officer took over the tourist bus at around 10:00 a.m. Monday.
The tourist bus, filled with Hongkong nationals, was about to leave Fort Santiago when Mendoza, who was clad in full police uniform and armed with an M-16 rifle, asked the driver if he could hitch a ride.
The driver, whom authorities have yet to identify, let Mendoza board the vehicle since he thought that the man was an on duty police officer.
As of 1:27 p.m., there had been 7 hostages released from the hijacked bus.
Chinese Embassy officials are now at the command post of the Manila Police District (MPD). They are hoping for the peaceful resolution of the situation and to ensure the security of the Chinese nationals.
Two police officers, Superintendent Orlando Yebra Jr. and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador, have started negotiations with Mendoza.
Mendoza is demanding authorities to clear his name and be reinstated to the service.
MPD spokesman Police Chief Inspector Erwin Margarejo said in a press briefing that the use of force against the hostage taker will be a last resort. He added that Mendoza's demand for reinstatement will be studied and will undergo undue process.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has appealed to Mendoza to "honor and respect" the lives of hostages. The government is hoping that tourists will view it as an "isolated incident" and that "it does not reflect real situation of the country."
The remaining hostages in the bus have been served with food and water from people outside the bus.
She said the 22 Hong Kongers had arrived the Philippines on Friday and planned to come back to Hong Kong on Monday evening.
Joseph Tung, the executive director of Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC), said the passengers were aged between 4 and 72.
Hostage-taker former Police Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza's initial demand was for the Office of the Ombudsman to act swiftly on his pending motion for reconsideration in connection with the administrative case filed against him and for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to reinstate him to his duty, said Police Chief Insp. Erwin Margarejo, spokesman of the MPD.
Based on records, Mendoza was dismissed from duty last year due to alleged extortion against a De La Salle University (DLSU) student whom he allegedly forced to swallow a sachet of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).
"Ang initial na demand niya ay i-release agad ng Ombudsman 'yung decision nung motion nya," the spokesman told reporters in a news briefing.
So far, Margarejo said that Mendoza had been cooperative with police negotiators.
"He was courteous, ok naman siya. He's been cooperating," he added.
Meanwhile, several Chinese Embassy officials arrived at the Quirino Grandstand at around 1:00 p.m. and met with the assigned negotiators.
Whatever pushed dismissed Police Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza to suddenly take on full battle gear and compromise 25 hostages inside a tourist bus?
It was probably frustration and desperation, as Mendoza's main request was to be reinstated as a policeman, insisting his name was "clean" especially with regards to the "hulidap" case.
Chief Supertintendent Rodolfo Magtibay identified Mendoza as part of the District Mobile Police Unit (DMPU). However, he was moved to the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in 2008 after a robbery-extortion case in Vito Cruz, Ermita, Manila.
A backgrounder on Mendoza showed that he was once awarded a medal for being one of the "10 Most Outstanding Police" and records showed that he was often awarded for his "honesty" even doing simple good deeds such as picking money on the street and returning it to its owner.
Mendoza's family is also involved in the force, with his sibling and son being members of the PNP.
In a radio interview, Mendoza's distressed father said, "Rolando, bahala ka na sa kung ano ang gusto mo, ikaw na ang magdesisyon, ayoko na mag-comment (Rolando, it's up to you what you want to do. It's your decision, I don't want to comment anymore.)"
This is the story I got from Manila Bulletins hostage taking updates
I am so busy here in the store, while my youngest daughter Ashly is sick with cough and colds. I'm still thinking of the laundry and stories to blog about so I didn't watch TV the whole day. I was only able to watch the TV when I heard the tension on the reporters voice on the TV because I am doing the laundry that time already. That was around 6 - 6:30PM when I decided to stop washing clothes for a while and pay attention on this hostage drama.
I saw how the driver escaped the bus and I was literally screaming here "TAKBO TAKBO TAKBOOO!!!" while the driver is running for his life. I am really shocked that I am seeing this scenes on TV with my daughter Emily beside me. Good thing that she is busy with her toys that time that she didn't pay attention with the news. I watched it until it was over.
It was a very sad ending. I am praying for the family of the victims and of Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.
Continuing the story, according to our Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, this are the things that happen off the scene:
- Senior Inspector Ronaldo Mendoza's brother Gregorio Mendoza, who is also a policeman was also in the scene. At first he was just walking around and talking to someone on his phone. Then he approached the negotiators and introduced himself as the brother of the hostage-taker and not as a policeman. He was carrying a gun that time so the police confiscated his gun since carrying a gun is not allowed when doing a negotiation with the hostage-taker.
- Vice Mayor Isko Moreno was the one communicating with the Ombudsman about the demands of Senior Inspector Mendoza. He was already able to get a letter from the Ombudsman stating that Mendoza's case will be heard so that he would have the chance to be reinstated since that is the due process of hi demand to be back on service again.
- When Vice Mayor Isko Moreno went back to the hostage scene carrying the letter of the Ombudsman, he even showed it to Gregorio Mendoza, asking if this will be enough for Senior Inspector Ronaldo Mendoza. Gregorio Mendoza said yes, this is enough. So the two negotiators with Gregorio Mendoza altogether went back to the bus and showed Senior Inspector Mendoza the letter. But he rejected it and said it was a trash.
- Before the two negotiators left that moment, the brother Gregorio Mendoza, shouted to Senior Inspector Ronaldo Mendoza, "Tol, wag kang pipirma sa kahit ano hanggat hindi nila sinosoli ang baril ko!" ( Brother, don't sign on anything until they gave my gun back!)
- That triggered the negotiators to have a closed door talk with the brother Gregorio Mendoza because he sounded like an accessory and not as a negotiator.
- The plan is that Gregorio Mendoza will be brought to some police station for some further questioning because he seem to know something because of the lines that he just said to his brother.
- They went out through the back door so the media wouldn't notice this move, but Gregorio Mendoza ran to the media shouting for help that the police are arresting him.
- So the media covered the scenario of Gregorio Mendoza refusing to be arrested, and his family refusing to give Gregorio Mendoza to the authorities. They made a scene and the media covered it all.
- Now, while this is happening, Senior Inspector Mendoza told the driver to open the TV inside the bus and saw the scene of his brother being captured forcefully by the authorities. This made him mad to release gun shots inside the bus.
- These gunshots made the driver to have an adrenaline rush of finding a way to escape and used a nail cutter to remove his handcuffs and jumped over the window. He also said that all the hostages were already dead.
- These made the policeman to start the assault. Several assault teams have arrived near the bus.
Now, this assault showed a lot of fail moves on the police part. which took the assault longer.
- Only one police is holding the sledgehammer. The sledgehammer is even heavier than the one holding it. He seems to be having a hard time crashing the window. He even threw the sledgehammer inside the bus TWICE!
- No gas mask and not all are wearing bullet-proof vests.
- No technical skills to open the emergency door lock.
- They tried to use a rope tied on a vehicle to open the door but the rope broke so... FAIL
- Tear Gas? they're not yet sure if all the hostages are really dead.
- Lack of proper equipment
- Live media coverage which gave the hostage-taker an eye from the outside.
- Poor tactics.
Indeed, our policemen needs more training and more skills in handling these situations. This is now a wake up call for the government to act accordingly.
Yes this is a shameful incident for Filipinos but this shouldn't be the reason to be ashamed of being a Filipino. We all have our stories. The world may hate us for this but this still isn't the reason to be ashamed of. Hostage taking happen many times. Many lives were lost, not only on this one.
I am calling out to all Filipinos out there to still stand proud. Venus Raj made it to the top five which is another story. But what I am trying to say is that we cannot be a perfect country. We may fail on some but that shouldn't make us frown because there is more in life that we can make us proud.
How about remembering Fe Del Mundo who invented incubators that saved the lives of many? How about the Filipino who discovered the
Freeing the old man with diabetes. This is really something, that he has goodness in his heart.