Hostage-taker watched TV inside bus

Posted at 08/24/2010 2:34 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Albert Lubang, driver of the tourist bus hijacked on Monday by disgruntled former police officer Rolando Mendoza, cut with a nail-cutter the handcuff that tied him to the bus steering wheel before making a dash for freedom.

Lubang’s cry that “Everyone is dead!” appeared to have prompted the police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) squad attack on the bus that killed Mendoza and 8 Hong Kong tourists, ending the 11-hour hostage drama. Seven tourists were injured while 9 hostages were freed prior to the attack.

Lubang jumped off from the driver’s window after freeing himself from the handcuff, ran for several meters with his arms raised, and was greeted with throng of media and police. His first words were, “Patay na lahat!” (Everyone is dead!")

Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) officials who debriefed Lubang said the driver recalled Mendoza demanded that the television on the bus be put on so that he could see what was happening to his relatives at the Luneta Police Community Precinct (PCP).

Lubang said Mendoza was angered by the sight of some of his relatives, including his brother police officer Gregorio Mendoza, being accosted by police, and started firing his gun wildly inside the bus.

Police suspect that Gregorio Mendoza was an accessory to the hostage-taking and took him into custody. But Gregorio denied this and said his brother must have been angered by what the police did to him prompting Rolando to fire his weapon.

Lubang even saw the bloodied body of a hostage before he got off the bus. The PNRC said Lubang’s statement about everyone being dead showed how traumatized the driver was.

Concerned about TV

Citizens, meanwhile, were concerned about television broadcasting the SWAT attack after Lubang escaped.

During the live chat at abs-cbnnews.com/tvpatrollive, citizens expressed concern that the hostage-taker may be monitoring the television broadcast of events.

“Hindi po kaya may TV sa loob ng bus kaya po nang nagkagulo sa labas ang mga pulis at pamilya ni Mendoza kaya po nagdesisyon din
s’yang patayin ang mga hostage?” live chat participant ‘Fred’ said after the SWAT started positioning themselves around the bus.

Chat participant ‘batang_munti’ advised, “Dapat barilin nila (police) yung upper front portion ng bus para mapatay yung TV monitor kung meron man.”

‘TV Peeps Ron,’ a regular chat participant, meanwhile, requested that TV Patrol place a “Parental Guidance” sign to alarm parents about the need to guide young viewers about the graphic visual of the news coverage.

TV Patrol, during its broadcast, had this sign at the upper right corner of the screen. Anchor Ted Failon also reminded viewers about the need for parental guidance. -- report from Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News