Award awaits cop who saved 2 kids in bus hostage case
CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna—The Laguna police on Tuesday recommended that PO2 Eduardo Santiago be declared a “Bayaning Pulis” awardee after he saved two children from a knife-wielding man on a bus in Pampanga on Monday.
The award is given to police officers who display gallantry in the line of duty. Santiago has also been recommended for automatic promotion to the rank of police officer 3, said Laguna police director Senior Supt. Gilbert Cruz.
The Laguna police office will also extend medical help to Santiago, who is currently assigned to the San Pedro police station in the province.
Santiago was on his way to his hometown of Bayambang, Pangasinan Monday, when the bus he was riding pulled over along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) in Apalit, Pampanga. There was a hostage-taking going on in another bus.
“Everything happened so fast, as if “in a count from 1 to 10, I would not have made it to 8,” said Santiago, 34, who has been a cop for eight years.
But he later realized it actually took more than an hour, including the drive from Apalit to Mabalacat.
After all, behind him was a man sticking a 24-inch knife to the neck of a boy, making time the least of his worries then.
“We saw that another bus had stopped. Our driver thought they were stranded because all their passengers were outside,” he said.
But the conductor of the other bus rushed to them and announced that a man, later identified as Sidro Brine, 40, took one-year old Carla Sarmiento and 5-year-old Mig Axle Bunustro hostages, and demanded that somebody drive the bus for him to Sto. Domingo.
“I had no idea where Sto. Domingo was. He also wouldn’t tell me,” he said. But the call of duty, even when in civilian clothes as he was on leave, prompted him to take the wheel himself, and do something.
Santiago left his phone number with the driver of the bus he was riding, and instructed him to alert nearby police stations. He never introduced himself as a cop.
“I kept on talking to him (Brine) the whole time, telling him to calm down and think about his family. But he said nothing, and just ordered me to drive,” he said.
He said he was hoping someone would call him, and for help to come soon.
“I was trying to delay everything until reinforcements came, and start the negotiations. We had even slowed down to 10 to 20 kph on the NLEx,” he said.
By chance, his phone did ring and it was his wife, Daisy, 32, who was on the line.
“I told her I was a hostage and asked her to send me some ‘load’ so I could ask for help,” he said. He said the hostage-taker could not make out their conversation because they spoke in Pangasinense.
Daisy instead called up the San Pedro police station, which alerted police in Pampanga.
They were in Mabalacat when Brine noticed other police patrol cars tailing them. Santiago said this rattled the hostage-taker who appeared to have lost his mind.
“From the driver’s mirror, I saw him come to me, and stab me on my side,” he said.
He said he was still driving but with one hand warding off the attacks. He said Brine was about to stab him the fourth time when he lost his balance, giving Santiago the chance to draw his gun and fire.
Brine died of a gunshot wound in the head, while Santiago suffered seven stab wounds on the shoulder and his hands. The children suffered minor wounds.
“We face similar situations everyday, but this one was the most difficult. I am just glad a little pain had saved lives,” said Santiago.