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No clear command caused Grandstand tragedy—Biazon

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 12:16:00 08/24/2010

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

MANILA, Philippines?The hostage-taking crisis at the Rizal Grandstand was the result of a police situation that had no clear person in command, Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon said Tuesday.

Biazon, chairman of the House committee on defense and national security, said a better handling of the crisis could have averted the loss of lives.

At the same time, Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano called for relief of Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa, Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay, and other police officials involved for bungling rescue efforts of the hostage victims.

As President Benigno Aquino III ordered an investigation into the bloodbath, Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo urged the House of Representatives to start its own inquiry.

Filing House Resolution 277, Castelo asked the committees on public order and safety; justice; national defense and security; and civil service and professional regulation to "investigate and evaluate the manner of handling the Manila hostage-taking incident."

"This serves as a case where we should now draw lessons from so that in future similar cases, the resulting deaths of hostages will never be repeated," Castelo said.

He said all angles should be looked into from Mendoza's dismissal from service to the handling of the crisis.

"Heads must roll over PNP?s bungled handling of Manila hostage situation," he said in a statement.

Mariano also extended his condolences to the families of the victims.

At least nine persons were killed, including the hostage-taker, and eight were wounded during the 11-hour standoff when a dismissed police, Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tourist bus with mostly Hong Kong national in Quirino Grandstand in Manila Monday.

?It is regrettable that the international community and media had to witness this kind of violence and incompetence of the Philippine police force. With the way the hostage-taking was handled by local authorities, the PNP and Malacanang have a lot of explaining to do,? Mariano said.

Biazon, a former senator and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, said it should have been known from the start who was the ground commander in charge and who will decide the tactics and resources to be used, including the hostage-taker's relatives.

Directly under the ground commander should have been an experienced negotiator, who can directly communicate to the hostage-taker. Then there should have also been the tactical commander, who is in charge of the assault force.

"There should be layers of command, and not everybody can talk or negotiate with the hostage-taker. Ang daming nakisawsaw (Too many were intervening). The worst thing you can do is to confuse the hostage-taker or agitate him," Biazon said in a phone interview.

Biazon also wondered why Mendoza was still carrying firearms when he should have surrendered it when he was dismissed in February 2009.

"Who owns the gun he used? We should trace the ownership of that firearm," He added.

He said he supports the ongoing investigation ordered by President Benigno Aquino III, adding that Congress should first leave the inquiry to the proper authorities.

Biazon said the incident will be a "black eye" to the country's reputation, especially to the tourism industry.

"It will take some time to repair it," he added.

Mariano also said that the Aquino government must take necessary diplomatic measures to protect Filipino communities in Hong Kong.

More than 150,000 Filipinos are working in Hong Kong, mostly domestic household helpers.

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