MANILA, Philippines??Dirty Harry? was apparently no match for hunger pangs.
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who led the crisis management committee that handled the Aug. 23 hostage-taking, on Friday said he left Quirino Grandstand during the critical moments to dine at a nearby Chinese restaurant.
Testifying before the committee investigating the incident that exposed the Philippines to international ridicule, Lim said he decided to momentarily leave the scene thinking that the situation would drag on until the next day.
He said he even ?invited? Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay, the ground commander, to join him at Emerald Restaurant on Roxas Boulevard.
He made his departure despite knowing that the hostage-taker, dismissed Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza, had shot at the police negotiators.
No lunch yet
?To tell you frankly, I was already hungry then. I hadn?t taken my lunch. So I said it would be better if we eat at Emerald first since it would just be a waiting game,? Lim said, eliciting chuckles from journalists covering the hearing.
When lawyer Roan Libarios, one of the five members of the committee, asked him why they left the area during a crucial point in the situation, Lim said he was not aware that the hostage-taker had begun shooting his hostages.
But the mayor admitted knowing that Mendoza had shot at the chief negotiator, Supt. Orlando Yebra Jr., apparently to show his frustration at the police?s failure to order the Office of the Ombudsman to reverse its ruling dismissing him from the service.
Pressed to explain why he told Magtibay to follow him to the restaurant and leave his post at the command center, Lim said he did not direct the latter to do so.
?I did not order him; I just invited him to go to Emerald. If he said that he felt it was important for him to stay, I would not have prevented him,? Lim said.
Lim also admitted telling Magtibay to be patient and just wear Mendoza out:
?I said they should just wait for the hostage-taker to give up. Anyway, he would surely get hungry, sleepy and tired. Maybe he would just surrender the next day.?
Lim said Magtibay did not ask him when the latter decided to take the ?last option? and assault the bus.
He said the crisis management committee merely acted as an advisory team, and that the critical incident management task group led by Magtibay was responsible for deciding whether or not to take the hostage-taker down.
Despite the flak that Magtibay and the Manila Police District have been getting for the botched rescue of the hostages, Lim said the policemen should be cited for their bravery in trying to solve the crisis peacefully, with all the hostages safe.
?They did their best. Unfortunately, their best was not enough,? he said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who chairs the investigating committee, said the crisis management committee might have ?underestimated? and ?misread? the situation.
Said Lim: ?We admit there was a misappreciation of the facts by the ground commander. Magtibay thought no untoward incident would happen.?
In reply to a question from De Lima if he knew the hostage-taker before the Aug. 23 incident, Lim said it was he who had ordered the then MPD director, Chief Supt. Roberto Rosales, to file administrative and criminal charges against Mendoza for reportedly forcing a chef to swallow a plastic sachet filled with illegal drugs and later extorting P200,000 from him.
He said he never had the chance to work with Mendoza during his 32-year career with the Manila police.
Asked if there was reason to charge Mendoza, the mayor said: ?Yes, your honor.?