Gunman and 8 Hostages Dead in the Philippines
By Carlos H. Conde - The New York Times
August 23, 2010
MANILA —A former police officer took a busload of
tourists hostage in downtown Manila on Monday morning, opening a 12-hour
standoff that was broadcast live on television, including its end as
police commandos stormed the bus before a watching crowd.
Eight tourists, all from Hong Kong, were killed,
along with the hostage-taker. He was identified as Rolando Mendoza, a
55-year-old officer who had been accused of robbery and extortion and
was fired last year.
There were indications that Mr. Mendoza, who news
reports said was armed with an M-16 assault rifle, was watching the
live news broadcasts of the scene on a monitor inside the bus as it
sat for hours, curtains drawn, at a major public plaza.
Throughout the day, the gunman wrote his demands
for the return of his job and benefits on cardboard and pasted them on
the windshield of the bus. One message read, “Big mistake to correct a
big wrong decision.”
Late in the afternoon, he posted a message saying,
“Media now,” apparently telling journalists to come to him. But by
then the police prevented reporters from even getting near the bus.
At one point, the gunman’s brother complained to
reporters near the scene that the police were threatening him; the
cameras then showed him being detained by officers and shoved into a
police car, his relatives wailing behind him. Shortly after, shots
were heard from inside the bus.
Gunfire also broke out when the police tried to
break the windshield and glass windows of the bus with sledgehammers.
A bystander was hit in the leg by one of the bullets.
Mr. Mendoza gave an interview to Radio Mindanao
Network, a Manila station, in which he admitted shooting two of the
hostages and threatened to kill more.
“I shot two Chinese,” he told the station in
Tagalog. “I will finish them all if they do not stop.”
The commandos struck after the bus driver jumped
through a window and ran from the bus screaming, “Everybody is dead!”
The cameras captured the commandos, armed with
rifles, surrounding the bus and opening an emergency exit, as
emergency vehicles converged at the scene in heavy rain.
Police officers threw tear gas inside the bus,
apparently forcing Mr. Mendoza to go near the bus’s main door, which
they had torn down. Shots were heard and in a split second the body of
a man — presumably Mr. Mendoza — was seen slumped by the door.
Several of the unharmed hostages, visibly shaken
and some crying, were taken off the bus through the emergency exit.
President Benigno Aquino, in a news briefing around
midnight, said Mr. Mendoza might have gained some advantage from the
coverage. “To a certain extent, he may have had a bird’s eye view of
the developments, which might not have helped,” the president said.
The case captivated — and angered — Filipinos, with
many blaming the news coverage for the disastrous end.
The chief executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, called the case a
“major tragedy,” and criticized the Filipino authorities.
“The way it was handled, particularly the outcome,
I find is disappointing,” Mr. Tsang said at a news conference in Hong
Kong, Reuters reported.
But Mr. Aquino defended the actions of the
authorities: “The idea was to let the ground commanders who are the
experts in this field handle the operation with minimal interference
from people who are less expert."
The Manila hostage crisis
The Manila hostage crisis occurred when a
dismissed Philippine National Police officer took over a tourist bus
in Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines on August 23, 2010. Disgruntled
former senior inspector Rolando Mendoza of the Manila Police District
(MPD) hijacked a tourist bus carrying 25 people (20 tourists and a
tour guide from Hong Kong, and four Filipinos) in an attempt to get
his job back. He said that he had been summarily and unfairly
dismissed, and that all he wanted was a fair hearing and the
opportunity to defend himself.
Negotiations broke down dramatically about ten
hours into the stand-off, when the police arrested Mendoza's brother
and thus incited him to open fire. As the shooting began, the bus
driver managed to escape, and was shown on television saying "Everyone
is dead" before being whisked away by policemen. Mendoza and eight of
the hostages were killed and a number of others injured. The MPD's
failed rescue attempt and gun-battle with the hijacker, which took
around 90 minutes, were watched by millions on live television and the
The Philippine and Hong Kong governments conducted
separate investigations into the incident. Both inquiries judged that
the victims had been unlawfully killed, and identified the Philippine
officials' poor handling of the incident as the cause of the eight
hostages' deaths. The assault mounted by the MPD, and the resulting
shoot-out, have been widely criticized by pundits as "bungled" and "incompetent",
and the Hong Kong Government has issued a "black" travel alert for the
Philippines as a result of the affair.
The hostage taker was identified by the Philippine
National Police (PNP) as Rolando Mendoza, a former commissioned police
officer, who demanded to be reinstated with benefits to his previous
post at the Manila Police District, from which he had been dismissed
in 2009 amidst allegations of extortion.
Mendoza graduated from the Philippine College of
Criminology with a degree in criminology, joined the police force as a
patrolman, and rose to become senior inspector. He was decorated 17
times for bravery and honor. Colleagues at the Manila Police District
said he was hard-working and kind.
On February 1986, Mendoza led a group of policemen
that flagged down a van that turned out to be carrying 13 crates full
of money, which former Philippine president and dictator Ferdinand
Marcos was apparently trying to take out of the country. Mendoza and
his team turned the shipment over to authorities. That year, Jaycees
International declared Mendoza one of the Ten Outstanding Policemen of
Hotel chef Christian Kalaw alleged he was accosted
by Mendoza and several other officers over a parking violation on
April 9, 2008. According to Kalaw's allegations, police planted
sachets of methamphetamine in his car, forced him to take the drug,
and accused him of being a drug addict. The officers allegedly
demanded Kalaw access his bank account via ATM and hand over his money.
Kalaw said the policemen released him after a friend raised 20,000
pesos. The Office of the Ombudsman found Mendoza and four others
guilty of misconduct and ordered Mendoza's dismissal from the service
and the voiding of all his benefits. Administrative charges against
Mendoza were filed on April 25, 2008, after which he was relieved as
Chief of the Mobile Patrol Unit.
In August 2008, the Eighth Division of the Manila
Prosecutors' Office vacated the case after Kalaw failed to attend the
dismissal proceedings; the PNP Internal Affairs Service recommended
the case be dropped on October 17, 2008, for the same reason.
Mendoza's brother, Gregorio, said that all his brother wanted was a
fair hearing by the Ombudsman, who "never even gave him a chance to
defend himself; they immediately dismissed him." There were later
reports that Mendoza was also charged with gang rape in a 1996
incident, but the case was dismissed when the complainants did not
show up at court.
As the Hong Thai Travel Services tour bus was
taking on the 25 Hong Kong tourists in front of Quirino Grandstand in
Rizal Park, Rolando Mendoza attempted to follow the tourists onto the
tour bus, requesting a free ride. When his request was declined by the
driver, Mendoza brandished a weapon, handcuffed the driver to the
steering wheel and hijacked the bus. However, a number of witnesses
saw a man answering Mendoza's description boarding the bus at Fort
Santiago. The police were looking for accomplices who dropped him off
at Fort Santiago. Driver Alberto Lubang also said Mendoza boarded
there, and subsequently announced his true intention at Rizal Park.
Mendoza, armed with a handgun and an M16 rifle,
commandeered the tour bus, demanding reinstatement to his previous
post with benefits and claiming he was framed. Manila mayor Alfredo
Lim said he would grant Mendoza's wish to be reinstated if he could
prove himself. Initially police believed that the hostages aboard the
bus were mainly South Koreans, but they were later confirmed to be 21
Hong Kong holidaymakers, a bus driver, and two tour guides. Masa Tse
Ting-chunn, the tour guide from Hong Kong, immediately alerted his
employing agency in Hong Kong to the situation by telephone shortly
after 10:30 am. During the two-minute conversation, Tse calmly
informed the assistant customer services manager that his group was
being held hostage.
Almost an hour later, six Hong Kong tourists were
freed. An elderly woman, Li Tsui Fung-kwan, complained of stomach
pains and was the first to be released from the bus. Her diabetic
husband, Li Yick-biu, was released later. Then, the 40-year-old mother
Tsang Yee-lai was released along with her two children — 10-year-old
son Fu Chak-yin and 4-year-old daughter Fu Chung-yin. As Tsang left,
she lied to Mendoza that the 12-year-old boy Jason Wong Ching-yat was
a relative of hers and convinced Mendoza to release Jason Wong along
with her children. Two Filipino photographers, Danilo Nebril and Rigor
Cruz, boarded the bus as volunteer hostages in exchange for the
aforementioned releases. The released hostages were taken to a police
precinct in Rizal Park.
By noon three additional hostages, including the
Filipino tour guide Diana Chan and the two photographers who
volunteered to be taken hostage, were released by Mendoza, bringing
the total to nine. News5 news anchor Erwin Tulfo remained in permanent
contact with Mendoza, while Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief
Inspector Romeo Salvador led negotiations. Seventeen people remained
on the bus. By this time, several major television channels in Manila
and Hong Kong have replaced their programme with non-stop live
coverage of the hostage situation, and live footage became available
worldwide. At around 2pm, Mendoza posted several notes on the windows,
which read "A big mistake to correct. A big wrong decision", "Big deal
will start after 3pm today" and "3pm deadlock".
The Office of the Ombudsman disallowed Mendoza's
request to be reinstated in the police, although they assured him that
his case would be reviewed. Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno delivered
the letter from the Ombudsman to the hostage scene after sundown.
However, Mendoza regarded the Ombudsman's decision as "garbage",
stating the text did not answer his demands. Mayor Lim said on local
radio that authorities had agreed to reinstate Mendoza to bring an end
to the crisis, but had not been able to deliver the message due to bad
When the Manila Police District (MPD) SWAT team
arrived, Mendoza declared on a radio interview on DZXL that he would
kill the passengers and wanted the SWAT team to leave the area. His
brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, walked out after negotiating with his
brother. He urged him to surrender peacefully and told his brother
that "Nothing will happen here." Gregorio Mendoza was later arrested;
the MPD stated that he was not asked to assist in the negotiations and
that he had breached the exclusion zone while carrying a gun.
President Aquino later said that the gunman's brother contributed to
the deterioration in the situation by fanning hatred against the
Mendoza became agitated as he witnessed live
coverage of the arrest of his brother from the on-board TV. Reports
indicate that he fired warning shots as he saw his brother and son
being carried away by the police. He demanded during a radio interview
that the police release his brother, or else he would start executing
hostages. Mendoza later claimed on live radio just before the police
assault began that he had indeed shot two hostages.
The first shots fired from within the bus were
heard at about 7:21 pm. At around the same time it was reported that
snipers had shot the tires immobilizing the bus after it had attempted
to move. Mendoza was agitated by news that his brother and his wife
were arrested, and later killed Masa Tse, the tour leader whom he had
handcuffed to the door handrail earlier. According to survivor Joe
Chan Kwok-chu, several hostages tried to rush Mendoza as he was
preparing to shoot the other hostages, but he shot them down before
they could reach him.
It was reported around 7:30pm that Alberto Lubang
escaped the bus. Lubang thought that all remaining hostages had died,
saying "Patay na lahat...!" ("Everyone is dead...!") to the
policemen and media waiting near the bus as he escaped. He later
admitted that his assumption was based on witnessing that Mendoza shot
three hostages and then fired more shots in the bus.
Mendoza then resumed shooting the hostages one by
one, aiming at the head. Amy Leung Ng Yau-woon told of how her husband
Ken Leung Kam-wing shielded her with his body and saved her from
physical harm during this round of shootings; Ken died from the
gunshot. similarly, press reported their youngest daughter Jessie
Leung Song-yi took two bullets whilst protecting her older brother
Jason Leung Song-xue, and died as a result. Joe Chan said he shielded
himself from Mendoza's gunfire with his backpack. He survived the
shootings, but both of his wrists were broken by bullets. Yik Siu-ling,
who travelled with Joe Chan, was seriously injured by a gunshot to her
The SWAT team started to surround the bus at 7:37 pm.
The policemen attempted for many minutes to break windows of the bus
with sledgehammers and tried to enter the bus, but were repelled by
gunfire. The attempt to board the coach lasted for about an hour.
Thereafter, four tear gas canisters were thrown into the bus as police
struggled to open the door. An attempt to break open the door by
trying to tie a rope attached to a police vehicle resulted in the rope
snapping. Police marksmen, who had taken positions earlier in the day,
shot Mendoza in the head during the assault. By that time, according
to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, four more hostages were
confirmed dead, while six hostages were confirmed alive and not
seriously injured. Two other people outside the bus – 47-year-old TVB
news crew engineer Wen Ming, and bystanding child Mike Ladrillo y
Campanero – were wounded by stray bullets.
Six hostages were taken to the Ospital ng Maynila
Medical Center, where two were declared dead while four were declared
stable; two were taken to the Philippine General Hospital; the
remaining seven hostages rescued were taken to Manila Doctors
Hospital. Another six hospitalised victims from the three hospitals,
including the Hong Kong tour guide Masa Tse, were subsequently
declared dead, bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities to
eight, with at least one person remaining in critical condition and
one in serious condition. The six survivors had injuries which ranged
from minor to substantial, and were put under medical observation.
Tour bus driver Alberto Lubang, who claims to have
been handcuffed to the steering wheel, escaped the bus minutes before
the situation deteriorated. Later, Mayor Alfredo Lim said that his
apparent friendliness towards the gunman and the ease of which he got
out of handcuffs led to suspicions that he was in fact the gunman's
accomplice. Lubang denies this, saying he still had the handcuffs in
question. On August 27, it was reported that Lubang and his family had
left their home and may have gone into hiding.
The list of identified victims was quickly
disclosed to the media. Among the eight fatalities were six
individuals belonging to two families. While Amy Leung survived, her
husband Ken Leung, and two daughters — Doris Leung Chung-see, 21, and
Jessie Leung, 14 — died; her son Jason Leung was seriously injured due
to blunt force trauma to the head. Siblings Tracey and Jason Wong, who
survived the incident, were orphaned as their father Wong Tze-lam,
mother Yeung Yee-wa and aunt Yeung Yee-kam were all killed. Fu Cheuk-yan,
whose wife Tsang Yee-lai and children Chak-yin and Chung-yin were
released soon after the bus was commandeered, was among the dead. The
media reported that three of the dead would not be autopsied in the
Philippines due to opposition from family. Fu and the three members of
the Wong family were buried at Tribute Garden.
Investigations by the Philippine government
President Aquino ordered a thorough investigation
to be carried out, with a report to be issued to him within three
weeks. The investigation was held by the Post Critical Incident
Management Committee (PCIMC), under the auspices of the Joint Incident
Investigation and Review Committee (JIIRC), headed by Secretary of
Justice Leila De Lima. As a gesture of transparency towards the Hong
Kong government, the Aquino government invited the Hong Kong Police
Force to send a team to participate in the investigation, but only as
observers, so as not to impinge on Philippine sovereignty. De Lima
declared that her department would be the sole authorized source of
information for the investigation for local media and directed Hong
Kong media to request updates from the Government of Hong Kong instead.
The gag order was to cover all parties and departments, including the
Hong Kong team examining evidence on the ground.
Preliminary results of the official investigation
were released on August 31. Ballistic tests by the Philippine National
Police showed that the deceased hostages' wounds were caused by a high-calibre
weapon fired from within the coach. Of the 65 recovered M16 rifle
cartridges from the coach, 58 came from Mendoza's gun. An
investigation team spokesman said it was certain that the eight
hostages who died in the incident were killed by Rolando Mendoza.
However, on September 3, de Lima admitted that the police might have
accidentally shot some of the hostages.
The investigation due to conclude on September 6
was later extended to September 15. After the completion of the
initial inquiry, the JIIRC traveled to Hong Kong to interview
survivors of the crisis. On September 6, chief negotiator Orlando
Yebra said that the police did not have an official hostage
negotiation team. It was reported on September 7 that Ombudsman
Merceditas Gutierrez and her deputy, Emilio Gonzales III, rejected an
invitation to attend a hearing. Previously, police officers involved
in the hostage crisis testified that Mendoza accused Gonzales of
attempting to extort money from him.
The official investigation report was first
delivered to the Chinese embassy in Manila on the morning of September
20, 2010, before being released to the general public later that day,
in an attempt to "repair the nation’s relations with China". Parts of
the official report identified eight critical errors of the handling
of the hostage crisis:
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim failed to properly
activate the crisis management committee, depriving the chief
negotiator and others of critical information and operational
The authorities were unable to appreciate
Mendoza's demands, and there was a lack of communication with and
involvement of the Department of Justice.
Gregorio Mendoza was allowed to join the
The side-issue of Gregorio Mendoza had been
allowed to preoccupy Lim, Rodolfo Magtibay and Chief negotiator
Orlando Yebra at a critical moment, setting off a chain of events
that led to Mendoza becoming "fatally hostile".
Lim decided to arrest Gregorio Mendoza.
Lim and Magtibay were absent from command post at
a crucial time, having a meal, which created a decision-making
"The inefficient, disorganised and stalled
assault" took place without "vital information" about the bus.
Magtibay rejected an order from the Philippine National Police
director for Manila to use the national elite Special Action Force.
There was no plan for what to do after the
assault and the crime scene was not preserved.
The investigation report also recommended
administrative or criminal charges for 15 individuals and
organisations, including Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, vice-mayor Isko
Moreno, ombudsmen Merceditas Gutierrez and Emilio Gonzales III,
government undersecretary Rico J. Puno, retired Philippine National
Police chief director general Jesus Verzosa, National Capital Region
Police Office director Leocadio Santiago Jr., Manila Police District
chief superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, MPD hostage negotiator Orlando
Yebra, SWAT commander Santiago Pascual, journalists Erwin Tulfo and
Mike Rogas, and three broadcasting networks.
On March 31, 2011, ombudsman Emilio Gonzales was
dismissed by president Aquino for his "inordinate and unjustified
delay" in handling Mendoza's appeal. Gonzales was the first individual
to receive direct sanction from the Philippine government. He appealed
the decision, claiming that he was "prejudged guilty before the
Investigations by the Hong Kong government
On August 25, 2010, the bodies of the deceased
victims were brought back to Hong Kong on a government-chartered
flight. The Coroner decided that an investigation into the death by
the Police should be carried out, and ordered autopsies on all eight
deceased victims. Five bodies were autopsied, but autopsy was not done
on the remaining three on requests of their families.
In January 2011, the Hong Kong Government invited
116 Philippine witnesses to participate in a probe into the incident,
which began on February 14, 2011. Participation was voluntary, and
expenses would be covered by the Hong Kong Government for those who
would need to travel to Hong Kong. Among those invited included
Gregorio Mendoza, brother of the hostage-taker, Alfredo Lim (mayor of
Manila), Isko Moreno (vice-mayor of Manila), reporters that covered
the incident, members of the SWAT team and a number of forensic
experts. Alfredo Lim and Isko Moreno rejected this invitation. They
claimed that, rather than conduct another probe, Hong Kong should
respect the results of the Philippine government investigation that
had concluded that Rolando Mendoza was responsible for the death of
eight Hong Kong nationals. The probe, according to Lim and Moreno, was
an encroachment of Philippine sovereignty and independence. Later on,
coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu rejected an offer for four witnesses from
Manila to testify through video, saying that the offer was not
promising, as some other Filipino witnesses had already failed to
testify through video as scheduled.
The investigation interviewed 31 witnesses from
Hong Kong and 10 from the Philippines. The coroner's five-member jury
had to answer "yes", "no", or "uncertain" to a list of 44 statements
describing the situation of the crisis. This method of jury
instruction was unique in Hong Kong's history. The narrative verdict
found that all eight deceased hostages were "unlawfully killed" and
blamed the Philippine authorities' incompetent handling of the crisis
as a direct cause of their death, but did not attribute any criminal
or civil liability to them.
The Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, called
the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, saying he was
"appalled" at the events and demanded an investigation. The Chinese
government also sent a team to the Philippines to "deal with the
situation". In an analysis of the event, the state-run Global Times
called the Philippines "one of the most chaotic countries in Southeast
Following the shootings, a Chinese consul in the
Philippines immediately asked for a written statement from the
Philippine government. Later on, he rejected President Benigno Aquino
III's explanation given at a press conference held on the early
morning of August 24, 2010. Plans for a delegation led by Philippine
vice-president Jejomar Binay to visit Beijing and Hong Kong between
August 26 and 27 to "explain the hostage incident" was rejected by the
Chinese government, citing that there was nothing to explain until the
publication of a complete investigation report.
On August 27, the Chinese embassy in the
Philippines expressed anger at the Mendoza family's decision to cover
Mendoza's coffin with the Flag of the Philippines during his wake.
In response to the hostage-taking, the Hong Kong
government requested that the incident be resolved in a peaceful
manner. The Hong Kong Security Bureau formed a taskforce, and sent
officers to Manila to assist the rescue efforts. On the day of the
assault the Security Bureau of Hong Kong announced a 'black' outbound
travel alert immediately for that country. Hong Kong residents were
advised against traveling to the Philippines, and residents on
location were advised to be alert and to return to Hong Kong as soon
Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong,
expressed anger at Mendoza and offered his condolences to the victims'
families, stating that the government would do anything within its
power to aid and rehabilitate the survivors and their families. He
complained that he had not been able to get through to President
Aquino by telephone during the siege, and also criticized the way the
siege was handled. The government chartered two airplanes carrying
doctors and counsellors to Manila to support the survivors of the
incident, and to fly the Hong Kong victims back home. The bodies of
all eight deceased victims, along with most of the survivors, were
flown to Hong Kong on the government-chartered flight on August 25.
All Hong Kong SAR flags at official locations were
lowered to half-mast from August 24 to 26, while the city's nightly
multimedia display "A Symphony of Lights" was suspended at the same
time to mourn the victims; all Chinese national flags in Hong Kong
were also lowered to half-mast on August 26. The Hong Kong Stock
Exchange held a minute's silence before opening on August 24. The
government announced the opening of 18 locations around Hong Kong
where citizens could pay their respects and sign condolence books. A
memorial ceremony was held as the victims arrived on the tarmac of
Hong Kong International Airport on the evening of August 25, attended,
amongst others, by Chief Secretary Henry Tang and Secretary for
Security Ambrose Lee.
President Benigno Aquino III expressed concern over
the matter and expressed his condolences to the victims. He promised a
"thorough investigation". While he said he was not impressed with the
manner the police handled the crisis, he defended the actions of the
police at the scene, saying the gunman had not shown any sign of
wanting to harm the hostages. He also made reference to the Moscow
theater hostage crisis, which he said resulted in "more severe"
casualties despite Russia's "resources and sophistication". In
addition, he declared that the news media may have worsened the
situation by giving the shooter "a bird's-eye view of the entire
After Aquino's comments, a large number of angry
messages from Hong Kong residents were posted onto his official
Facebook page, some of which accused Aquino of smiling during the
press conference. Aquino subsequently apologized, saying it was an
expression of exasperation.
On September 5, Aquino said in Filipino, "Our
problems now, in two or three years we can say that they are laughable
when we recall that they were not that grave."
On September 9, Aquino revealed that he had
received a letter from the Hong Kong Government, which was said to
give instructions in "minute detail" as to what the Philippine
Government should do and was regarded by Aquino as insulting. The
accusation has been denied by the Hong Kong Government. In response to
Donald Tsang's claim that he could not reach Aquino by telephone
during the siege, Aquino said that Tsang should have stuck to protocol
in trying to contact him. He also maintained he tried to contact Tsang
the next day.
The decision to arrest Mendoza's brother during the
process of negotiation was questioned. In response, Manila Vice-Mayor
Isko Moreno told CNN that Mendoza's brother was guilty of conspiring
with the hostage-taker and allegedly helped instigate the shooting.
MPD commander Leocadio Santiago, while saying it
had been correct to put the assault on hold until Mendoza had started
shooting hostages, admitted that mistakes were made. Senior Supt.
Agrimero Cruz Jr., spokesman for the national police, said five
general lapses were observed by the PNP Command Group and Staff. Cruz
said they had observed poor handling of the hostage negotiation; side
issues and events that further agitated the hostage taker; inadequate
planning of the assault, and lack of team capability, skills and
equipment; improper crowd control; and non-compliance with media
relations procedures in hostage taking. Interior secretary Jessie
Robredo, who is in charge of the national police, has also admitted
there were problems with how the crisis was handled. Manila Police
District director, Rodolfo Magtibay, as commander of the rescue
operation took leave and four members of the SWAT team were suspended,
Several members of the House of Representatives
condemned the hostage-taking while criticizing how the MPD handled the
situation: Representative Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Lakas-Kampi, Cebu–6th)
blamed the non-stop media coverage, saying the live coverage "may have
jeopardized police rescue operations on site" and authored a bill to
constrain media coverage so as not to hinder or obstruct such rescue
efforts. Rodolfo Biazon (Liberal, Muntinlupa) blamed the outcome of
the incident on the unclear MPD command structure.
The Philippines planned to send a high-level
delegation to China to meet and explain to officials there what
happened in the hostage crisis. However, the schedule of this
delegation could not be confirmed by Beijing government. Instead,
Beijing urged the Philippines to submit a "comprehensive, precise,
objective" investigation report.
In his Proclamation 23, President Aquino declared
August 25, 2010 a National Day of Mourning for those killed. All
Philippine flags at all government institutions, including consulates
and embassies worldwide, would be flown half-mast.
A hearing into the crisis was conducted by the
Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs on August 26.
During the hearing, police operatives revealed that Mendoza was
reading the letter from the Office of the Ombudsman to an unknown
person over the phone before the violence began. The Senate is
planning to subpoena the records of the telephone conversation. It was
further revealed that Rodolfo Magtibay, ground commander during the
crisis, had an elite team of Special Action Force of the Philippine
National Police at his disposal, but chose to utilize the SWAT team
instead because his team had successfully rehearsed the storming in
the afternoon. The counter-terrorist unit from the national police
were on standby behind the grandstand; the Philippine Army Light
Reaction Company had also offered one of its elite squads, trained in
hostage-taking scenarios and fighting Islamist militants in the
southern Philippines, but was told by police it was not needed.
Magtibay, whose appointment was opposed by Alfredo
Lim, said that Lim, as head of the crisis management committee, gave
the order to arrest Gregorio Mendoza – a move which caused distress in
the gunman and allegedly triggered him to shoot the hostages.
On August 30, a Philippine consulate official in
Hong Kong appealed to Filipinos to postpone trips to Hong Kong
indefinitely, citing anti-Filipino sentiments in Hong Kong. Claro
Cristobal, Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong, said in a radio
interview that although Filipinos in Hong Kong can be assured of
safety, Filipinos travelling to Hong Kong for vacation may be troubled
by angry sentiments there caused by the hostage incident in Manila.
Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon issued a
statement on August 24 at 4:30 pm ET expressing Ottawa's condolences
to the families and friends of those who died. In the press statement,
the Canadian government confirmed that there were Canadians among the
deceased and injured victims; they were later identified by the media
as the Leung family. The British government's Foreign and Commonwealth
Office said confirmed that hostages Yick Biu Li and Fung Kwan Li, both
British nationals, were unharmed. Union flag at British Consulate-General
Hong Kong and British Embassy Manila were lowered to half-mast for
this issue regarded to the former colony and the British people on
August 25, 2010. The U.S. embassy in Manila condemned Mendoza for
taking "innocent tourists hostages in an effort to redress a
media and public
The aftermath of the hostage crisis was met with
shock and dismay throughout the Philippines. Comments ranged from
shame, sadness, and sympathy for the hostage victims; anger mixed with
a sense of disbelief at the perpetrator Rolando Mendoza, the police
force for its apparent bungling, and media for its overzealous
coverage; and concern over the damage to the image of the country as a
tourist destination and the safety and well-being of Filipinos
overseas who might experience backlash over the incident.
Columnist Conrado De Quiros writing in The
Philippine Daily Inquirer expressed how "deeply, deeply ashamed"
he felt over the incident. In a follow up column, he castigated
Mendoza as a "traitor", adding that "to bury him in a pauper's grave
will insult paupers". Columnist Alex Magno in The Philippine Star
wrote about the "immaturity" of the diplomatic response of the newly
installed Aquino administration in what is commonly seen as its first
serious leadership test of the administration, in its first one
hundred days in office. Magno listed a string of mistakes from the
administration starting with how it failed to initiate contact with
the Hong Kong government, to how it insulted the Hong Kong Chief
Executive by not promptly responding to his call, and then later
unilaterally announcing the sending of a high level delegation to the
Hong Kong and Chinese governments in what Magno interpreted as a
damage control measure without first confirming that Hong Kong and the
PRC would receive the delegation. Magno sees the Chinese as responding
with the diplomatic equivalent of "the penalty of death by a thousand
cuts." John Nery writing in The Philippine Daily Inquirer said
it was indeed appropriate for Aquino to have kept his distance from
the crisis management, despite the hands-on approach the general
public was demanding with hindsight; he said the skepticism directed
towards the Aquino administration was not being applied equally to the
Tsang administration's account of trying unsuccessfully to reach
Aquino since 4 pm. Analysts agreed that the Aquino administration's
approval rating would fall, if not for the handling of the hostage
taking crisis, then from a natural move off the high it was coming
Hong Kong media and
Most Hong Kong newspapers reported the Manila
assault on front pages; some Chinese newspapers changed their logo
colours to black on their front covers. The Manila police and the
Philippines government were strongly criticized for their handling of
the situation. All television channels in Hong Kong broadcast devoted
significant coverage to the hijacking, and its aftermath. Wall-to-wall
live coverage, between 6 pm and 9 pm, made it the single incident with
the most live television news coverage in Hong Kong since the
September 11 attacks on New York. Google displayed a plain white
Google Doodle on google.com.hk out of respect for the dead on
Apple Daily, which likened the Philippine
police to a troop of Boy Scouts in terms of competence, also
criticised the Chinese central government for acting too slowly to
protect lives. The Hong Kong Economic Journal criticised the
Manila Police for their "appalling professional standards, and the
lack of strategic planning"; The Standard said Philippine
authorities were accountable.
The Sun pointed out there was a lone counsel
in Manila acting on behalf of China until after the siege had ended,
and speculated that more hostages could have been saved had higher-level
diplomatic pressure been applied earlier.
In light of the hostage incident, considerable
public anger was vented against the Philippine authorities. In Hong
Kong, there was concern about anti-Filipino sentiments. A text message
circulated widely among Filipinos said that 30 Filipino domestic
workers had been sacked, some of them had even been stabbed and killed,
but Claro Cristobal, Philippine consul general in Hong Kong, dismissed
the rumors and rumor-mongering. Cristobal said that two domestic
helpers out of more than 100,000 were sacked but for reasons
completely unrelated to the hostages incident. He said stories about
hate-induced violence would only aggravate the situation. Meanwhile,
Jinggoy Estrada, son of former president Joseph Estrada, said that an
immigration officer rudely threw his passport at him after checking it
when he passed through Hong Kong Immigration. However, according to
security footage, Estrada entered Hong Kong through the privileged
passage for diplomats, accompanied by staff from the Philippine
Embassy. Cameras covering both sides clearly recorded and showed that
his passport was properly handed back to a person among his entourage.
Lee Ying-chuen, one of 7 survivors in the crisis,
wrote an open letter urging Hong Kong people to help Filipinos fight
for a better society and justice, and not to see them as scapegoats
for their corrupt government. Donald Tsang offered to the families
that the eight victims be buried in a special cemetery called the
"Tribute garden" at the Wo Hop Shek Public Cemetery. On August 28,
2010 a candlelight vigil with a thousand participants was held in Hong
Kong to mourn the victims. Legislators from different political
parties organized a march on August 29, which according to organizers,
was attended by about 80,000 people; the police gave a figure of
30,000. 400 Filipinos also held a vigil for the victims in Chater
Gardens on August 29.
Following their handling of the crisis, public
support for Donald Tsang rose to a two-year high, and that in other
government officials also surged, according to a survey by the
University of Hong Kong. Satisfaction in the government rose 10.6
Pundits' criticism of rescue operation
A pundit interviewed on the main evening news in
Hong Kong criticized the Philippine National Police for lack of
planning and strategy for negotiating with the hostage-taker. The
response to the rapid deterioration of the situation caught the police
off-guard; the hour-long assault on the coach was also described by a
security expert as "extremely risky to the hostages". Security analyst
Charles Shoebridge praised the SWAT team's courage but criticized the
police for lack of determination, equipment, training and element of
surprise; for not taking the opportunity to disarm or shoot Mendoza;
for not satisfying Mendoza's demands; for not blocking off televised
proceedings, for not safeguarding the public and for using Gregorio
Mendoza in the negotiation. Romeo Acop, a former director of the
Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection
Group, was also critical of the police for failure to establish an
isolation line, slowness in addressing Mendoza's demands, failure to
deploy the Special Action Force, poor negotiating team and skills,
absence of an officer to control the media, and lack of actual
In France, retired Colonel Frédéric Gallois,
commander of the Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN)
from 2002 to 2007, after watching live television footage was quoted
by Agence France-Presse (AFP) as saying that "one cannot understand
what justified this badly prepared and risky assault", and further
commented that the SWAT team lacked specialist training, equipment and
Two survivors of the crisis, Chan Kwok-chu and Yik
Siu-ling, and Tse Che-kin, brother of Masa Tse, are scheduled to meet
Philippines government officials for compensation. They requested help
from chief executive Donald Tsang, but Tsang's office said they would
not intervene because the case is a civil case. Democratic Party
lawmaker James To have also tried to help Chan and Yik apply for legal
aid and request more help from the chief executive. According to a
Philippine human rights lawyer, legal claims in Philippines is
expensive and complicated.