Robredo washes hands of hostage fiasco

Posted at 08/31/10 9:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo will not resign amid calls for his head to roll in the wake of the August 23 hostage crisis.

"Honestly, if I can tell myself that I was really responsible, you will not see me any minute longer in this office," he told ABS-CBN News in an exclusive interview.

He added that he was not part of the crisis management group that led efforts to get dismissed police officer Rodolfo Mendoza to free the Hong Kong tourists held hostage inside a bus in Manila.

“I was out of the loop, really, in terms of management of that situation,” he said on Tuesday.

He watched the crisis unfold through television in his office. He said the situation had turned from bad to worse while he was attending an emergency meeting called for by President Benigno Aquino III later that night at the Emerald Restaurant in Manila.

Robredo is asking Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Jesus Verzosa to explain why he left Metro Manila at the height of the crisis.

"(Ang) aking impression was that they looked at it as purely a police matter. Yebra was doing his job, but things did not turn out right," Robredo added.

'Twas Usec. Puno in crisis committee

The Palace has admitted that it assigned DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno, and not Robredo, to monitor the situation.

Puno defended Verzosa, saying the PNP chief was talking to the ground commander, Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, even while he was in Cagayan de Oro.

"We were all relaxed already. Di na namin talaga inaasahan iyon… Because all indications na makakausap si Inspector Mendoza, and hihingi siya ng isang bagay o bago namin ibigay iyan ay bigyan mo muna kami ng isang hostage.. ibibigay niya," (We were all relaxed already. We did not expect it because all indications pointed at talking to Inspector Mendoza and he will ask for something. In exchange we will ask for a hostage to be released and he will agree)," Puno said.

He stressed that the government did not belittle the situation, as Aquino was informed about the crisis early in the morning of August 23.

"Protocol dictates na walang high government offficial na makikita doon dahil pag nakita ka doon ay humingi siya ng mas malaki at baka ma-commit. (Protocol dictates that the hostage-taker will not see any high-ranking official. Otherwise, he will only make bigger demands),” he explained.

Puno said the government had plans to give in to the hostage-taker’s demands and reinstate him in the PNP.

He said the crisis management group wanted Mendoza to become exhausted until he surrendered to police.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who led the local crisis management committee that handled the crisis, said they were willing to grant the hostage-taker’s demand.

"Gumawa nga ng sulat eh, na may order na. Pirmado si Gen. Santiago eh, na sige i-rereinstate na siya. Problema ay pinadala niya sa motorcycle cop, huli na nang dumating. (A letter was made, signed by Gen. Santiago, which will reinstate him in the police force. The problem was it was sent through a motorcycle cop who arrived late)."

Roberedo, meanwhile, said conflicting statements of various officials will be clarified once a government review committee starts its investigation into the case. - From an exclusive report by Julius Babao, ABS-CBN News