Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles
At the height of Typhoon Yolanda, guess what we were writing about – the three-year-old Luneta bus hostage massacre that continues to anger a large section of Hongkongers.
Here are our stories yesterday:
Filipinos set to snub Hong Kong after visa threat in Manila hostage row
Threat to scrap visa-free access to Hong Kong brings a swift response on social media, with many saying they will turn their backs on city
Alan Robles in Manila
Filipinos have reacted with bitterness to the decision by Hong Kong lawmakers to push for the scrapping of their visa-free trips to the city and are threatening to take their cash elsewhere.
Jim Paredes, a popular songwriter and performer, posted on Facebook: “OK Hong Kong, it’s been nice knowing you. But you will miss us more than we will miss you.”
And on Twitter, user @vita_bella88 said: “Dear HK, see if we care. You need us more than we need you. Thank us for your economy. Good riddance.”
The comments came after Legco passed a non-binding motion last week to press the government to impose sanctions on Manila and cancel visa-free access for Filipinos.
To read the rest, please click on this link.
My piece was based on exclusive interviews with Manila Vice Mayor Francisco Domagoso and Mayor Joseph Estrada:
Manila vice-mayor sad over Hong Kong’s treatment after hostage tragedy
Politician feels he deserves gratitude of Hong Kong for saving eight lives in bus crisis
Raissa Robles in Manila
Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco Domagoso has expressed sadness over the way Hong Kong has treated him in the aftermath of the botched bus hostage rescue three years ago.
“Just between us, don’t I deserve a ‘thank you’ by saving eight lives?” Domagoso asked the Sunday Morning Post.
He disclosed for the first time that he – and not Manila’s mayor at the time, Alfredo Lim – was calling the shots during the day-long hostage-taking of a tourist bus by dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza.
“From morning to 6pm [of August 23, 2010] I was the one handling the entire incident. During the daytime I was the highest civilian authority … not mayor Lim, at that time. When Mendoza asked for food and gas, I asked for hostages in return,” Domagoso said.
“The Chinese embassy gave me a specific request – the old man, 80 years old. I got the old man. He was released.
“When you look at the timeline, I’ve been saving lives.”
To read the rest, please click on this link.
My sympathies have always been for the Hong Kong tourists who came to Manila to enjoy their holiday and ended up being massacred by a deranged ex-cop. I covered the entire ordeal.
However, in the light of the recent disaster brought about by Typhoon Haiyan, there would be a great disconnect if the Hong Kong government would impose more severe sanctions on the Philippines if a “substantial resolution” of the conflict is unmet in a month’s time.
Hong Kong has always been a special place for Filipinos for over a century. It is where Philippine revolutionaries and rebels often take shelter in times of great political upheaval in Manila. Both perhaps could find a way to mend relations.
In the recent FOCAP foreign press forum, Aquino hinted at harsher penalties for the erring cops. He said in reply to my question:
“I think the current trend is to or the current thinking is to increase the penalties for several policemen involved.”
But he believes former Manila Mayor Lim is innocent and should not be punished. Aquino believes that based on the Crisis Manual, Police general Rodolfo Magtibay could have countermanded Lim at any time.
I believe both Lim and Magtibay should share the blame for the botched hostage rescue.
Based on the reality on the ground, Lim was clearly in command after 6 PM of August 23, 2010. And Magtibay went along with that.
This is the second time in history where Lim was in charge and a police action ended up in carnage. The first was on January 22, 1987. Lim was at that time the Manila police chief and the cops under him formed the first line of defense around Malacañang Palace. The resulting Mendiola massacre was one of the key reasons that Aquino’s mom, President Corazon, did not get the Nobel Peace Prize. Lim was in charge of ensuring the Mendiola protest did not turn violent.
By the time of the 2010 bus hostage, Lim was a former Manila police chief, a former director of the National Bureau of Investigation, a former senator, a former police general and a former Interior and Local Governments Secretary. Given such titles, it was very likely the crisis manual which even Lim failed to follow was simply tossed aside and Magtibay took orders from Lim. Not the other way around.
In fact, it was Lim – not Magtibay – who had interviewed Gregorio Mendoza before the latter was allowed to get near his hostage taker-brother Rolando, according to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa’s own Memorandum for the President reviewing the IIRC recommendations.
The Ochoa memorandum stated that:
“At 5:10 p.m., Lim arrived at the Luneta PCP. There, he found SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of the hostage-taker, seated on a sofa. Lim then questioned Gregorio Mendoza on why his brother was holding the tourists hostage.”
The same Memorandum curiously criticized Magtibay because he
“allowed Gregorio to approach the bus and talk to his brother hostage taker without first evaluating him and his intention.”
Why would Magtibay still do that when Lim, the boss-mayor, the Dirty Harry of Manila, had already done that himself?
Ochoa’s Memorandum noted that:
“Around 6:00 p.m., Vice Mayor Moreno arrived at the Luneta PCP from the Office of the Ombudsman and handed the Ombudsman’s letter to Lim. The letter was then read in the presence of Gregorio Mendoza, who was subsequently allowed to get near the bus with Yebra and Salvador in the hope that he could help pacify his brother and persuade him to peacefully surrender and end the hostage-taking.”
This shows that Lim was in command and he was in on the decision to allow Gregorio to approach his brother, which led to terrible consequences.
Ochoa’s Memorandum then narrated that:
Yebra, Salvador (the two hostage negotiators) and Gregorio Mendoza proceeded to the bus and handed over the Ombudsman’s letter to the hostage-taker. However, after RolandoMendoza read the letter, he rejected it and became agitated. Rolando Mendoza branded as “garbage” the Ombudsman’s letter, which merely promised a review of his case, and not his reinstatement. Yebra attempted to pacify Rolando Mendoza by asking if he would be satisfied if he were provisionally reinstated. Mendoza answered ‘Alright.Alright.’
Mendoza’s brother, Gregorio, butted in and complained that his service firearm had been confiscated by the police and urged him not to cut a deal with negotiators until his gun was returned. This prompted the police negotiator to pull back Gregorio Mendoza and consequently berate him for his actions.
As Yebra, Salvador and Gregorio Mendoza were walking back to the command post, Mendoza fired a warning shot. At the command post, Yebra reported to Lim and Magtibay what Gregorio Mendoza did and said that Gregorio Mendoza should be charged as accessory for the hostage-taking.
Lim ordered that Gregorio Mendoza be handcuffed and taken to the MPD Headquarters purportedly for investigation.
Notice that the preceding paragraph from Ochoa’s memorandum left out a crucial part of the narration. The one where Lim ordered Gregorio to be “brought to Tondo.”
Ochoa’s memorandum then said:
Lim later said he would go to Emerald Restaurant and instructed Magtibay to follow him, who did so a little later. Lim also gave instructions not to handcuff Gregorio Mendoza anymore.
This part of the memorandum is very clear that it was Lim calling the shots. It was he who “instructed” Magtibay to follow him to the restaurant, leaving the command post vacant.
It was also Lim who instructed that Gregorio not to be handcuffed.
From Ochoa’s memorandum, there is no question that Lim was in charge on the ground from the moment he arrived at the On-Scene Command Post (OSCP) after 6 PM of August 23, 2010. What the memo calls the OSCP or PCP is that police outpost close to Manila Hotel.
I read Ochoa’s contorted legalese explaining why Lim should not be held liable for abandoning the OSCP, saying the manual does not require the mayor to be physically there in the first place.
But in a later portion, Ochoa’s memo said that:
“For ordering the arrest of Gregorio Mendoza and directing to have him brought to Tondo, the initiation of administrative proceedings for Misconduct in Office under Sec. 60 or the Local Government Code is also recommended….If it were true that Mayor Lim ordered Gregorio Mendoza brought to Tondo and that the statement could have meant that Gregorio Mendoza was to be bodily harmed or summarily executed, Mayor Lim could be held liable for Misconduct in Office.“
Frankly, I don’t know what happened to this part of the charge sheet against Lim. Whether he was found guilty of misconduct. Misconduct in office is punishable with suspension or removal.
If there is one public official who should apologize, I believe that based on the facts on hand it should have been Lim.
And if Lim really loves his country, he would offer his head on a plate. He would issue an apology and say he was forfeiting one year of his pension “with honor”, in order to resolve the massacre standoff. He can afford that. He already won the state lottery and is a rich man.
But I’m not for Philippine President Aquino issuing an apology to the victims because the implications of that are too far-reaching. It could encourage other deranged people into holding hostage innocent foreign tourists, in the belief that no less than the Philippine President would have to step into the picture because if the hostage taker’s demands aren’t met, the Philippine President would be forced to issue similar apologies and the government would have to pay compensation.
By the way, the Philippine government was never sued or asked for compensation in the botched military rescue of American missionary Gracia Burnham where her husband Martin and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap died. It’s the same thing. Only, the negotiations took months and not one day. Still the rescue resulted in two deaths.
The Hong Kong victims insist on an apology because they said Aquino apologized for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by elements of the Philippine Coast Guard. There is a vast difference in the two cases.
A subsequent probe firmly established that the bullet that killed the fisherman came from a Coast Guard firearm.
In the case of the hostaged Hongkongers, even the ballistics experts of Hong Kong and a subsequent formal Inquest held there failed to firmly establish that any of the bullet fragments found in the bodies of the slain victims came from the guns of the Manila policemen who took part in the botched rescue. But fragments and eyewitness accounts established that the rogue ex-cop Mendoza went on a killing spree inside the bus.
Today, ironically, I am getting the impression that the Hong Kong government intends to hold the Philippines and Filipinos hostage on this issue.
Ironically, they are doing the same thing that Police
Captain Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza did that tragic day.