IIRC First Report - Evaluation of CMC and police actions

Posted at 09/20/10 6:00 PM


Establishing the Crisis Management Committee (CMC)

The formation of the CMC established the capability to handle the crisis incident. Conversely, the non-establishment of the CMC established the incapability to handle the crisis situation. That a manual has been developed and in place which defines the organizational structure of the CMC emphasizes the importance of convening a CMC. Standard Operating Procedure for a hostage taking requires that the Local Executive (Mayor) of the Local Government Unit (LGU) officially convene the CMC immediately after being informed of the existence of a crisis incident.

Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila claims that having confirmed that MPD Commander, Gen. Rodolfo Magtibay, was already on the scene and acting as Ground Commander and having given instructions to Gen. Magtibay to “cordon-off the area”, inform him of his requirements and “do whatever is necessary”, the Mayor had in effect convened and operationalized the CMC. This was supposed have been reinforced with Vice-Mayor Moreno being designated as “Vice-Chairman”.

The protocols are specific on the organization or composition of the CMC. There is also a basis for why the Local Chief Executive (Mayor) is charged with organizing the CMC and not the Ground Commander. The reason is that some of the critical elements or the sub-groups of the CMC are not under the control or supervision of the Ground Commander “prior” to the CMC being formally convened, but are under the Chief Executive of the City. Examples of these are: Medical Support Group and Fire Fighting Units. Operational control over the said units by the Ground Commander follows as a consequence of, and not prior to, the CMC being convened or formed. In fact, that Mayor Lim or Vice Mayor Moreno instructed Gen. Magtibay to “inform them of what he needs” emphasizes this matter.

Mayor Lim, as the designated Chairperson of the CMC, should have ensured that the components of the CMC were actually in-place with, at the very least, the designation of the point persons for each critical position or sub-group. Although he said that Members of CMC are department heads for legal, health, the secretary to the mayor, and social welfare and that this was activated after the department heads meeting there was no other indication in the records or testimonies of the convening of the CMC. Magtibay in fact merely assumed the formation of the CMC when he said that he did not receive any order on the formal activation of CMC. He merely assumed automatic activation upon the happening of the hostage crisis. He said he did not find time for the ministerial designation and issuance of order for the activation of the CMC. In fact, Magtibay believed that what was established at 10:30 was the Crisis Incident Management Task Group (CIMTG) under the ground commander since Mayor Lim was at the City Hall.

There was no clear-cut delineation of functions between the Chairman of the CMC and on-scene ground commander. It did not specify to what extent the mayor can interfere in the operations for it was learned during the hearings that the mayor had the opportunity to order the arrest of the brother of the hostage taker. There is also no guideline as to when a higher ranking officer can take over the on-scene ground commander if the former had assessed that the on scene commander is not capable of addressing the crisis.

Measured against the requirements under Sec. 116 of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code and Executive Orders No. 309, 320 and 773, Mayor Lim of the City of Manila failed in the performance of his mandate to form or convene the CMC in accordance with the said cited law and Executive Orders.

Of major significance, as borne out by the events as they unraveled, was the absence of three CMC sub-groups that are very critical in a hostage taking crisis. These are the Intelligence sub-group, the Psychologist to support the Negotiating Team and public affairs to control and brief media.

For this purpose, the issue as to whether EO 309, 320 and 773 and Sec. 116 of RA 716, are what governs in determining the composition of the CMC or whether it is the new EO is immaterial. Either way, the Mayor is still charged with organizing the CMC.

Strategic Lapses in the Negotiation Process

The initial contact and access to the hostage taker made by Major Salvador was orderly in appearance. The same with Col. Yebra who was also able to establish rapport.

The medium for communications were the standard throw phones in hostage situation in order to establish communication between the hostage takers and the negotiator in case the former do not have one. The communication was also established with the use of cell phones. Lack of other communication apparatus got in the way. What the negotiator failed to give was a two-way radio that is faster and convenient to use in this kind of situations and more reliable in case of network failures or heavy traffic in the network providers. Sometimes the old equipment could still be of good use and should not be left out of any operations like bull horns, loud speakers to convey messages in case of network failures that what actually happened in this case wherein the negotiator tried to re-establish communication with the hostage taker but failed to do so because the cell phone line of the hostage taker was busy while talking with an anchorman of RMN radio network demanding for another negotiator because he has lost his confidence with the two negotiators for not returning the gun of his brother confiscated earlier.

Col. Yebra had some training in crisis management and had a few experiences in hostage situations. He did not, however, have any official designation as a negotiator nor there exists a negotiating team in the Manila Police Department. The one who assisted him in the hostage situation, Major Salvador, has to his credit some experience in crisis management. Both belong to the legal department of the Manila Police District. The non-designation of a regular negotiator is sufficient proof of the ineffectiveness of the Manila Police District to address hostage crisis situations.

The two police officers were reporting to the on scene-commander during the crisis situation. There was no intelligence officer to assist them in order to give details to them concerning the hostage taker in order to give them a better assessment of his personality, service track record, ideology, traits, personages that may affect his actions and other information that would facilitate the negotiations. Thus, the negotiators were largely acting on their own. They were not being assisted by any psychologist or any intelligence officer for much needed outside information that may be necessary in hostage crisis management. Although the on scene commander was present during the early and later part of the crisis, he never coordinated intelligence in a serious and organized fashion. He was complacent in the demand for support to the negotiators and this complacency proved contagious to his men to the point that even Yebra and Salvador also no longer asked for, demanded or looked for information and intelligence on their own.

The negotiators were hampered by the distance of the spot command post set up by the on-scene commander. The posts of the negotiator and the on-scene commander are a distant a far, in fact, they were on the different sides of the park. This delayed whatever developments that had to be relayed to the on scene commander.

The police authorities endeavored to grant all demands made by the hostage-taker, to wit: That his case folder be brought to the Secretary of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman (although no copy was ever received by the Secretary of Justice); that food and fuel be delivered; a mobile phone and a throw phone were provided to facilitate communication and negotiation; and his brother Gregorio was allowed to approach the bus and talk to him. However, the other demands were not accommodated for security reasons, as for example: an audience with a lady reporter.

In substance though, there was a total lack of a genuinely serious and well-planned out negotiation strategy. Everything depended on the Vice Mayor’s trip to the Ombudsman. Even when this was discussed, there was a miscommunication on the precise nature of the demand, from an Order of Reinstatement to a mere Review. There was even legalistic opposition as to its propriety even when the Order can be reversed anytime after the crisis for having been acquired through force and intimidation. The alternative of a reinstatement order from the NCRPO was only brought up when the Ombudsman letter was rejected as garbage by Mendoza. Even then, the main strategy, as articulated by Mayor Lim, was to simply “tire out” Mendoza, to wit: “Waiting game na lang ito. Maghintay na lang tayo. Baka kapag napagod yan, napuyat, mag-give way na.” (This is already just a waiting game. Let’s just wait. Maybe if he gets tired, lacks sleep, he will just give way.) This was made with utter disregard of any experience and training in hostage-taking incidents that when hostage-takers get tired and grow impatient for lack of response to demands, more often than not, they actually just start getting violent.

Unfortunately, even at the moment when there was a semblance of a formal convening of the CMC at the PCP in the late afternoon, the strategizing was layman in approach, without benefit of professional clinical analysis. It was heavily dependent on the equally unsophisticated and unscientific observation that the hostage-taker was “kind” and “reasonable” and that “the whole day before the shooting nothing was happening”. This was made despite the reminder in the hostage manual of the critical period known as “dynamic inactivity” when the mind of the hostage-taker keeps on running scenarios, options and possibilities, together with the thought of being killed, that makes for immediately volatile and dynamic eventualities in hostage-taker action, contrary to “nothing was happening,” and its implication of an expectation on the part of the CMC that nothing will continue to happen as the basic premise for crucial judgments on the hostage crisis.

This articulated “strategy” of Mayor Lim to just “tire out” the hostage is in clear disregard of Section of the Amended Crisis Management Manual of 2010, to wit:

Another factor that is always present and relate to time is stress. People tend to become more rational as they become less emotional. Therefore, to get your message across, first do something to reduce the hostage-taker’s emotional level. The body reacts to stress through its adaptive mechanism. However, individuals cannot maintain a high level of resistance to stress. Eventually, they will reach the exhaustion stage. xxx xxx

It is also important to note how the chief negotiator, Col. Yebra, refused to box Mendoza accordingly among the three possible stereotypes of hostage-takers described in the Hostage Negotiation Manual. Yebra considered Mendoza a “criminal” hostage-taker who is described to be a person who has just committed a crime and in the course of avoiding arrest and capture by the police decides to take hostages as he is cornered. This type of hostage-taker implies lack of premeditation to take hostages on the part of the hostage-taker. The taking of hostages was just incidental in the effort of the criminal to flee the police and elude arrest. This clearly was not the case for Mendoza.

Col. Yebra refused to categorize Mendoza under the stereotype where Mendoza clearly falls, i.e., a “mentally deranged” individual who deliberately takes hostages because of feelings of oppression and persecution for purposes of correcting a wrong or injustice done to him. This type of hostage-taker implies his hostage-taking as premeditated, deliberate, thought through, and planned. This type of hostage-taker is ready to die, not unlike the terrorist-type of hostage-taker. The proper stereotype would have helped in the crafting of an appropriate negotiation strategy, as well as forewarn the negotiator of surprises in behavioral changes.

Neither was there any serious analysis made of his probable psychological set-up at periodic intervals especially at the stage of “dynamic inactivity” forewarned in the hostage manual. Information on the hostage-taker as far as the ground commander was concerned was limited to the characterization from the hostages that he was calm, playful with the driver, cracking jokes, and kind. Information on his state of mind that he will not harm hostages was based simply and much naively on the fact that he was releasing hostages.

Yebra’s explanation that Mendoza was reasonable and rationale with his dealings from the start as the reason for not labelling him as a “mentally-deranged” hostage-taker tells much of Yebra’s professional training, that at the most critical moment of practical application, he throws all his training out the window and proceeded to consider a premeditated hostage-taker as an ordinary case of a man who can be reasonably talked to, and refuses to see the undercurrents of psychological conflicts that has driven a man such as Mendoza to the extreme act of hostage-taking to correct the perceived injustice done to him.

Mendoza might not have looked like the stereotype psychotic as seen in mental wards, but Yebra’s failure to see through Mendoza and his veneer of calm and reasonable deliberateness, despite all alarm bells ringing in Yebra’s own hostage manual and training is, to say the least, disappointing and unprofessional.

The Debacle of the Assault

The Rizal Park Hostage Crisis will always be remembered by the whole world by the images of the debacle of the assault on the Hong Thai tour bus. This debacle was caused by several factors. But foremost of them was the clear and patent display of insubordination of General Magtibay to follow categorical orders from the President himself to use the PNP Special Action Force – Crisis Response Group (SAF-CRG) for the bus assault.

According to the PNP Chief and his Directors, the best PNP unit trained and equipped for the job of hostage rescue was the Special Action Force – Crisis Response Group. This group was present at the southern side of the Grandstand at 5:30 p.m. The confidence in the capability of this special unit of the PNP is such that conventional wisdom goes to the view that if this was the unit employed in the assault, the bungling image of the PNP rescue would have been avoided and not imprinted in the eyes of the world.

Upon being informed of the hostage-taking, Gen. Santiago as Regional Director, NCRPO immediately informed the Chief PNP, Gen. Jesus Versoza, who in turn ordered the deployment of the SAF and RMCG. Undersecretary Rico E. Puno of the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) testified that immediately after being informed of the incident by General Versoza (shortly before 12:00HR of August 23), he asked Col. Medina, who was assigned by Gen. Santiago, to accompany him to give a briefing to the President.

During the briefing, the President gave instructions to make all resources needed at the disposal of General Magtibay, who was the on-scene (ground) commander. The instructions were relayed to Gen. Magtibay through Col. Medina. The President also inquired on the intervention team. When given the assessment that the SAF was better prepared and equipped vis-à-vis the SWAT, the President gave instructions to Usec. Puno and Col. Medina to direct Gen. Magtibay to utilize the SAF.

General Santiago, Col. Medina and Usec. Puno gave testimony to the effect that they relayed to Gen. Magtibay the instructions of the President to utilize the SAF if and when an assault or intervention was to be carried out. In fact, Gen. Santiago said that he “coached or stated the instructions of the President in the form of an Order” (to Gen. Magtibay). This was supported by the deployment of the SAF and RMCG units to the MPD-TOC by Gen. Santiago at around 2:30 p.m. and by informing Gen. Magtibay of such deployment. Gen. Santiago and Col. Medina further testified that operational control over the SAF and RMCG was placed under Gen. Magtibay.

Gen. Magtibay, on the other hand, testified that while he was informed that the SAF was available, he did not confirm that he was “ordered” to utilize the SAF. Gen. Magtibay further acknowledged that the information was relayed to him by Col. Medina, but he could not recall if he was informed by Col. Medina that he was in Malacanang and that the use of the SAF was an instruction coming from the President.

The testimonial evidences weigh in favor of the assertions that instructions from no less than the President were given and relayed to the on-scene or ground commander placing at his disposal the resources needed to address the situation. This included the instructions given to Gen. Magtibay to use the SAF for tactical intervention. The claim of Gen. Magtibay that he did not know (or was not informed, or cannot remember) that Col. Medina was at Malacanang, or that instructions were coming from the President when the instructions were relayed, does not appear to be credible. This defies known practice or even standards of relaying instructions within the PNP or military organizations. It is important to note that the instructions were being relayed through a junior officer (Lieutenant Colonel) to a senior officer (General). Established protocol dictates that the junior officer inform the senior officer the source of such instruction. In fact, it is customary for the junior officer to inform the senior officer of the source. If not given, the senior officer is expected to demand for the source of the instruction specially that he is the on-site or ground commander. It is likewise consistent with culture that the person relaying such kind of instruction invokes higher authority. Gen. Magtibay’s claim goes against the grains of protocol and culture.

The gross insubordination of Gen. Magtibay only became apparent at the moment of the assault itself when the SWAT entered the scene at 7:35 p.m. and there was no word from Magtibay to the PNP SAF-CRG to also deploy for the assault or that they will be deployed as the primary assault unit. As a result, the assault stalled perpetually until Col. Medina relieved Magtibay of his command around 8:11 p.m. and took over the assault operation.

Even then, the question is why did it take Col. Medina so long to take the decisive action of relieving the disobedient Magtibay? In the first place, he should have ascertained Magtibay’s intention to utilize or not to utilize the SAF beforehand upon reaching the Grandstand at around 6:20 p.m. Having failed to do so, the next opportunity to intervene was not during the assault, but during the stall in the assault, as forcing the SAF upon Magtibay at the start of the assault would have harmed what could have been possibly a swift assault by the SWAT, as everybody eventually witnessed was not to be the case. The assault started at 7:35 p.m. Col. Medina took over at 8:11 p.m. A long time has passed from that stage when a reasonable mind would conclude that the assault has stalled to Medina’s take over. A reasonable mind would conclude that the assault stalled 5 or 10 minutes into the assault, and that Medina should have intervened and taken over at that point with his SAF unit. For some reason, the relief order on Magtibay was only given by Gen. Santiago long after it has already become pretty obvious to the whole world that the SWAT assault was going nowhere and was becoming disastrous by the moment.

The PNP has repeatedly assured the President as he repeatedly reminded the PNP that the SAF was the assault unit going to be used, and they had failed him. When the President issues orders, he expects them to be followed, and the simple task of the officials relaying the command to General Magtibay is to make sure that it is not only relayed, but that the order be obeyed to the letter. For what is the purpose of relaying an Order if it is not coupled by the more important task of making sure that what is relayed is followed to the letter. PNP Chief Jesus Versoza and General Leocadio Santiago Jr., having been given direct orders by the President to make sure that the SAF was used, had the sworn duty to see to it that said orders were carried out by Magtibay. They miserably failed in this task.

Failure in Intelligence

Intelligence gathering and delivery to the proper officials was virtually nil.

No one was specifically tasked to monitor broadcast radio and TV channels for news on the hostage-taking at the Command Post at the Luneta PCP. Admittedly, there was no working television inside the PCP. If the CMC was properly convened, City Hall would have been requested to provide any of its wide-screen TVs from the Offices of the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor, or the Councilors.

No one interviewed the family members and friends of Mendoza present at the Luneta PCP or within the vicinity all throughout the hostage crisis. A tactical investigation of Gregorio early in the day before he was arrested would have provided material information as Lim said in his testimony that Gregorio at one point admitted that he and Mendoza agreed to “go” the plan in light of their frustration with the Ombudsman. Implying that he was actually part of the planning. Ironically, this should have also led Lim to proceed cautiously with Mendoza knowing he might be a conspirator. Instead, he was the one to give a go ahead to Gregorio’s participation in the delivery of the Ombudsman letter to Mendoza despite Yebra’s reservations.

There were nine released hostages. Not a single one was properly debriefed or interviewed for information about the conditions of and inside the bus and the condition of the hostages and the hostage-taker. All throughout the day, the negotiating team was ignorant of the fact that the bus was equipped with a TV set capable of receiving live broadcast on the hostage-taking incident. There was not a single attempt to interview the hostages and the assistant manager (Lourdes Amansec) of the travel agency which operated the bus to provide information on the features of the bus, such as internal and external dimensions, toilet facilities, number of seats, the make of the glass windows and access to entry points from the outside, particularly through the emergency exit or the main hydraulic door, etc. The driver was asked about how to open the hydraulic door from the outside by pressing a button only when the assault was already under way, even when several minutes have passed from his escape to the start of the assault on the bus.

The negotiating team admittedly was also uncertain until the late hours of the afternoon whether or not Mendoza was acting alone or had another armed conspirator inside the bus because nobody bothered to verify this simple but most critical matter. Nobody also asked the released hostages if Mendoza planted or carried explosives inside the bus.

Command, Control, Coordination and Communication

Command, Control, Coordination and Communication between the different groups under the CMC and the ground commander and even between the group commander and the different groups under him were lacking. This caused failure in the following:

a. Flow of crucial information and intelligence from the designated official to the proper recipient;
b. Crowd control;
c. Media Control and Relations; and
d. Legal support.

This was not more exemplified than at the most crucial stage of the hostage crisis, the arrest of Gregorio which prompted Mendoza to shoot all hostages in less than five minutes. Monitoring and communications were a total failure considering that the outburst of Mendoza threatening to shoot the hostages if his brother was not released was being aired on radio several minutes before he started shooting at the hostages.

Efficient communications and coordination could have easily avoided this most crucial tipping point. However, this was aggravated by the fact that by then, the ACP at the Luneta PCP was practically closed for business with the departure of the ground commander himself and the Chairman of the CMC with other highest district PNP officials to Emerald Restaurant, leaving no one in charge to stop the arrest in the event that it could have been communicated immediately. With the departure of the ground commander, strategic decisiveness required at the most critical juncture was absent from among any of the police officials left at the scene since the ground commander admittedly carried his command with him to Emerald, leaving no particular official directly in charge at the scene capable of making decisions and having those decisions followed without question.

The simple but delicate business of communicating precisely the demands of the hostage-taker from the negotiator to the ground commander even when made personally suffered from miscommunication because of a lack of attention to details. The clear demand for a favorable Order or Decision from the Ombudsman on Mendoza’s Motion for Reconsideration as initially relayed to Yebra and Salvador mutated into a “Review” of the Ombudsman decision when it reached the Ombudsman.

Command, Control and Coordination was usually made via cellular phone. This entailed problems in operational efficiency when the delicate police operation becomes subject to ordinary civilian problems of officials not being able to connect to each other or their men, dead batteries, lack of load for texting and calling, etc.

Legal support was found wanting in impressing upon the ground commander and the CMC the legal implications of not delivering and notifying the Secretary of Justice of the case folder of Mendoza and his demand for the Secretary to look into his case and to personally call Col. Yebra. Mendoza felt that more than just a simple case of Dismissal by the Ombudsman, his was a case of injustice and oppression, and his demand for the Secretary to take a look into his case, a dismissal decision taking all of three pages to ruin his life, was his final cry for justice from the Philippine government, and last hope from a new administration in whose touted flagship platform of delivering justice for every Filipino he believed.

There was total failure of proper coordination among the various teams that are supposedly tasked to be part of a crisis management task group. Spectators were able to break through the police line inappropriately set, news reporters and cameramen had access to the crime scene, responding crews of ambulances did not have the proper training as how to approach and evacuate victims of the incident thereby destroying and contaminating evidence, there was no immediate personnel from the SOCO to manage and supervise the evacuation of victims and preservation of evidence , lack of police personnel to accompany the victims who survived the incident to the hospital for proper coordination with hospital personnel to preserve evidence, and the lack of well–planned operations to address matters of this nature. The police force of the City of Manila, especially its leadership, clearly was not prepared for the hostage crisis incident.


The police authorities seriously failed to properly coordinate their individual assignments to come up with an orchestrated solution to the crisis. Although the police deployed a big number of its personnel, it did not correctly address the situation.

The perimeter police line was so lax that on-lookers, ambulant vendors, in fact anybody were able to penetrate the police line and reached a distance that is not safe, for the effective range of the rifle of the hostage taker is more than 300 yards. A spectator was hit in the leg during the assault. The rifles of the SWAT were of the same type that also has the capacity to hit innocent by-standers. This being the case, the police line should have doubled the distance. Even if there were spectators that were able earlier to gain entry into the police line still there was no effort to push them away from the scene of the hostage situation. In fact after the situation came to an end, these spectators rushed to the bus and contributed greatly to the confusion and congestion that hamper or delayed the proper medical personnel and police investigative authorities in performing their tasks. It highly contaminated the immediate area outside of the bus.

One example of the laxity in the police line was the penetration of the brother of the hostage taker, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, who was able to come close to the bus and was only noticed by the one of the negotiator Chief Inspector Salvador.

The District Director who is not experienced in this kind of situation took command of the crisis situation management instead of delegating the matter to a more experienced officer. The command post he established was also far from the negotiators delaying the immediate dissemination of information being gathered, if there was any.

Deployment of the assault teams and the snipers was poorly done by the assault commander. The snipers were clustered in one area and that is the left side of the grandstand if you are facing it. According to the assault commander and the snipers themselves, this is the best spot to avoid any cross fire between the assault teams and the snipers. Not one covered the front part of the bus wherein the front windshield of the bus could have provided unhampered view of the interior of the bus. The reason of the assault commander is not supported by the deployment of the assaults teams during the breach considering that they were all positioned around the bus so the incident of a cross-fire was not remote. In fact forensic reports show that shots were fired from all sides of the bus thereby showing that the snipers were not the only ones firing from a distance in a cross-fire manner prejudicing the lives of the assault teams. If only a sniper or a spotter was positioned in front of the bus during the entire assault, the spotter could have relayed the place where the hostage taker was positioned and to have a visual confirmation that all hostages are dead as reported by the driver of the bus that was able to escape. The statement of the sniper that he was the one who shot the hostage taker supports the observation that there was a great possibility that a police operative may be hit by friendly fire. There was no spotter whose only duty was to monitor the bus and to report continuously of what is being seen or observed from the outside and inside of the bus.

The media was able to gain so much ground that they were even the ones when it became dark providing light in the crime scene. The unrestricted coverage of the situation wherein they exposed the tactical movements of the SWAT assault teams compromised their actions giving the hostage taker an eye from the outside as to how he would repel the assault. The scene wherein his brother was seen being manhandled by the police on national television and the fear of the brother of being liquidated seriously aggravated the agitation of the hostage taker. This scene could not have been witnessed by the hostage taker if media was restricted to fully cover the situation. The media has protocols when covering situations and instead of adhering to the protocols it blatantly violated in the disguise that they were merely covering the incident. There is a manual covering the media and they are fully aware of these protocols for they themselves formulated it. They claim that if they were told to restrict their covering the incident then they could have done so. This is no excuse for they claim they are professional and they should be aware of their limitations.

The on-scene or ground commander left his post thereby creating a vacuum as to who was in actual command during his absence. Though he is only a kilometer away and accessible by cell phone, no other could substitute for his physical presence and decisive actions during the crucial minutes of the hostage crisis situation. The on-scene or ground commander ordered the full breach of the bus without consulting the negotiator whether all efforts to negotiate failed and a report from the spotters to have visual confirmation of the report made by the driver who escaped.

There is obviously tactical lapses on the part of the on scene commander that contributed immensely to the tragedy. The on-scene or ground commander after long hours of negotiations underestimated with complacency the volatility of the situation.

Equipment and Training

The ideal equipment of a SWAT team more or less are as follows: communication apparatus, armor vest, helmets, gas mask, pistols, assault rifles for close quarter battle, handcuffs, synchronized watches, binoculars, telescopes, night vision goggles, battering rams, ladders, ropes, stun grenades, teargas, smoke grenades, stick lights, flashlights, spotlights, telescopic gun sights, hydraulic jacks, bolt cutters, glass shutter explosives, fire extinguisher, fireman’s ax, chain saw, SWAT van, gloves, carpentry tools, acetylene torch and rain gears.

There was lack of equipment on the part of Manila SWAT to handle the situation. Although they had their basic weapons such as their armor vest (the effectiveness are already in deep question), their rifles, pistols and Kevlar helmets but still by standards, these are not adequate to address the hostage crisis situation. It is very evident that they were not even carrying with them flashlights but all of the time they were reporting and complaining that the interior of the bus was dark. The lack of equipment already put the breaching operation into a compromise. The element of surprise was gone that resulted into a stall that lasted for sometime thereby endangering lives. The doubt regarding the effectiveness of their armor vest contributed to the apprehension of the SWAT members to rush inside the bus during the assault.

The Manila SWAT was not only ill-equipped but they were not trained in different kinds of situations. In fact they had to rehearse on the very day of the hostage situation. The trainings of the Manila SWAT as provided by the Manila Police District are not updated and simulated operations were conducted, if ever conducted, was a long time ago. They don’t even know the serial numbers of their guns at an instant query. They train on their own personal account. Skill acquired through trainings diminishes after some time and needs to be constantly updated.

National or Local Crisis

The authorities considered the crisis a local crisis and therefore handled by the local CMC of Manila. The basic parameter being that the locality where the crisis is occurring will determine which CMC has jurisdiction. Thus, the crisis was handled by Mayor Lim as the Chairperson of the Manila CMC. It appeared that at no point was the elevation to the status as a national crisis considered even while practically all the hostages were foreign nationals and even while representatives from foreign embassies or consular offices were already involved.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on Crisis Situations does not have clear parameters on when, or under what circumstances, should a crisis be elevated to national status.

It is also not clear as to which agency, or who in the bureaucracy, will initiate the elevation of the crisis to national status. Will it be by endorsement or initiative of the local CMC or will the elevation be through a “take over process” initiated by the national agency concerned?

It is also not clear on what is the scope of the authority of the CMC. Is it advisory or does it make a decision based on consensus of the members of the CMC which decision is then to be implemented by the Ground Commander?

Return to main page of IIRC First report


Basis of authority and mandate of the IIRC

Summary of proceedings

Limitations of the report

Facts and sequence of events

Forensic findings

Critical incidents

Evaluation of CMC and police actions

Evaluation of media coverage


Conclusions on accountability



These parts of the report have not yet been made public by Malacañang, pending further review by the President's legal team (see statement above).


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