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AFP elite team offered for hostage crisis but never used -- spokesman

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:32:00 08/26/2010

Filed Under: Military, Police, hostage taking, Grandstand Hostage

MANILA, Philippines -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines offered a special and elite military strike force as a ?viable alternative? to deal with Monday's hostage drama in Manila but was never used by the police ground commander in resolving the crisis.

Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, the AFP spokesman, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, on Thursday, said the Light Reaction Company (LRC), a composite unit of highly trained and better equipped soldiers from the Navy SEALs, Army and the Air Force, was deployed by the AFP to the scene when the actions started but they were merely placed on the sideline.

?At the start of the hostage situation, we immediately contacted our Philippine National Police counterparts and we offered services coming from our special and elite unit and this was gladly recognized,? Mabanta said.

?However, we were told that we just have to be on standby alert so apparently as we all know, it was never used,? he said.

The LRC, which is under the Joint Operations Group (JSOG) of the AFP, became famous for many successful encounters with the Abu Sayyaf and is also being used by the Marines in Basilan during counter operations. One LRC company has at least 50 to 60 men.

According to Mabanta, the JSOG per se has the ability to fight under abnormal conditions, including limited visibility, while the LRC's specialization includes hostage-taking and release of hostages.

Also, the JSOG is able to operate under its realm of responsibility -- the Army on ground assault, the Air force in high-jacking of airlines, and the Navy under maritime conditions.

Mabanta said he did not know why the LRC was not used at all to complement the police force but acknowledged that it was the call of the ground commander not to do so.

He noted that the coordination between the AFP and the PNP at that time was ?at the highest level.?

Asked if the outcome of the hostage-taking crisis could have been different had the LRC been used, Mabanta quipped : ?I can never say because that may be presumptuous. I really don't know the equipment and the training of the SWAT team that was involved.?

Mabanta said that regular training would be important in dealing with all sorts of situations, including hostage-taking.

?Remember that even the SWAT that was deployed could have been able to accomplish its mission if the situation permitted, meaning to say ang daming nangyari (so many things happened) so they could have also performed the mission if all the things, which they anticipated had fallen their way,? he stressed.

He stopped short of blaming the SWAT for the tragic ending of the incident. He reminded the people that the incident could happen anywhere in the world.

?This is certainly a fiasco but it is not only confined to the Philippines. It happens in the best of them, meaning to say it happens in First World countries, even the United States, even in Europe. It happened in our country being a Third World. It is just but a normal thing,? Mabanta said.

He said that the coordination between the AFP and the PNP would have to be further cemented and institutionalized in order to effectively deal with any crisis situation.



Copyright 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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