Call for more heads to roll over hostage crisis grows

Posted at 08/27/2010 2:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Calls for more heads to roll snowballed as the 55-day-old Aquino administration now grapples with its first political crisis.

Rep. Carlos Padilla (lone district, Nueva Vizcaya) told the media Thursday that the crisis for the government is now just beginning because of the fallout from Monday’s hostage incident in downtown Manila.

“Ngayon lang nag-uumpisa crisis, which is political crisis, crisis of leadership, crisis of credibility and crisis of unpreparedness on part of the PNP and other authorities.”

Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito (lone district, San Juan) said, “(the) backlash would be felt starting now. [In the] next 6 months to 1 year we don’t know 'yung implication ng pangyayaring ito.”

Yet lawmakers disagreed on where the buck stops.

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez and allies in the minority of the House of Representatives yesterday called for the resignations of 3 cabinet officials for allegedly failing to manage the crisis. They also castigated the President for the mishandling of the crisis.

Today, the Aquino administration found an ally in Ejercito and Antipolo Rep. Reynaldo Acop, a former police officer.

“In fairness to the administration, they are only 55 days old… 55 days isn’t enough to strong capable units,” said Ejercito.

But while Ejercito exempted Aquino from blame, he was unforgiving of other officials, particularly, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, whose tough anti-crime stance as a former police officer earned for him the monicker, “dirty Harry.”

“Whoever was in charge has to be relieved. This should serve as a lesson to the administration na dapat mag-crisis team, nobody was on top of situation. Pinagtataka ko nga, dapat mayor andun din, di ko nakita. Nasaan si dirty Harry? I still think those responsible has to be relieved or fired kasi they are responsible. During whole time na merong krisis hindi ko nakita ang mayor ng Maynila. Dapat siya andun. Dapat may nagtayo agad ng crisis management team na may ganitong pangyayari. Nangyari po ay walang, dapat may decision maker negotiator at ground commander. Para nung panahong iyon may confusion kasi pati hostage taker walang makausap. Dapat iyan pinapacifcy at kinakausap lagi na yun ang magpapakalma sa kaniya,” Ejercito said.

Ejercito was mayor of the neighboring city of San Juan before he became its congressman.

“Abot sa district chief. he had all the decisions to make there were certain lapses. Maraming lapses. Kung babasahin ang operations manual maraming bagay na 'di sinunod sa hostage incident. Glaring dun is absence of police line. Yun nilalagay para di makalapit tao. Number one, isolate the scene of the incident,” Acop said.

Acop added Hong Kong’s separate autopsy of the victims could complicate matters for the Philippine government. “Hong Kong has decided to conduct an autopsy on the victims. Mas masama kung di pareho ang resulta,” he said.

Padilla said there are some matters of procedure for hostage situations that did not need the imprimatur of the President. He zeroed in on Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa, a holdover from the Arroyo administration.

“Whether it has to go to the President or not, these are basic things. In case of Verzosa he’s been there 2 years. Sabihin na nating Noy is 55 days [in office], but there are things we can solve. Meron bang operating procedure, whether we have new President and former President who has been there for 9 years? Meron bang rules of engagement ? Were they followed? These should be part of the SOP regardless of the President. Dapat may crisis management in place. Dapat merong nadedeal with the media,” he said.

Suarez for his part added, “Do mo maiiwasan sa media mang-scoop. Point ko [isang lapse] is pagha-handle na walang coordinator that should handle media na dito lang [magbibigay ng] official statement”

Suarez also pinpointed the arrest of hostage taker Rolando Mendoza’s brother as the trigger for the violent turn of events.

”I'll cite the case of (2007 manila hostage taker Jun) Ducat. Pangulo tinawag DILG, si General Caledron, si Mayor (Lito) Atienza and MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando. They were the crisis committee, pumunta, nakipag-usap. 'Yun may granada yun ha. It could have been disaster. But ang grievances niya, improve quality of education. How can you say no to that. It could have been a simple case assuring Mendoza his grievances will be considered. What aggravated the situation was pagkuha sa kapatid,“ Suarez said.

This, as Suarez again scored Malacañang for bungling the crisis, even as he stressed that only the heads of higher officials could save relations with the Chinese.

“The issue of Mendoza is simple: grievances lang, gusto lang mareinstate. That could have been a solution by the Palace, saying we will look at the case, the President has given word, pakikinggan kaso mo, eh di tapos na. Nangyari na ito. How do you appease Hong Kong? Do we stop at [the] head of Magtibay? I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ll be appeased with Magtibay I have to concur with Lagman Someone has to take responsibility they really bungled job,” he said.