Thursday, 1 November 2012

Manila hostage crisis

On August 23 2010, 9:30am, a former police officer Rolando Mendoza boarded a tourist bus Hong Thai 799 carrying 25 Hong Kong tourists. He boarded the bus and asked the driver if it is going to the Heros graves. He then brandished his M16 rifle and announced to everyone on board that they are his hostages and also told them that the issue is not with them but with the Phillipine government. In 2008, he was accused of corruption and drug charges and as a result lost his job and his retirement benefits in 2010. He demanded  his job back. The tourist bus stopped at the Quirino Grandstand where President Benigno Aquino was inaugurated two months earlier. He stuck a big paper on the windscreen demanding his job back and his name to be cleared. Police surrounded the area and started negotiations.

A woman started having stomach pain which got worse and she was released. Mendoza released her on the condition that she will come back. The police did not allow her after her release. The woman's husband was diebetic and needed medical attention. He was released and reunited with his wife. Mendoza's daughter apologized to the two for her father's action.  As a gesture of goodwill, a mother and three children are released in exchange for media to come but the police did not allow them. The police never interviewed the two about the situation inside. During hostage situations, it is always important to interview released hostages to gather important intellegence before carrying out any assault/rescue attempt.

At 3pm, a brother of Mendoza, Gregorio (also a police officer) sneaked through police lines wearing street clothes and carrying a handgun. He wanted to talk to Mendoza before being taken away with his gun confiscated. At night, it was raining and police gave Mendoza a letter that did not please him. The letter said it was offering an extention to review his case and that this process takes over 10 days. Mendoza was angry wanting his name to be cleared on the day. A radio channel managed to contact Mendoza's cellphone which he read the letter live on air. As night continue, Mendoza got impatient and angry. As a former police captain, he knew police tactics and knew that police are trying to wear him out. Gregorio was arrested for breaching police cordons and carrying a gun earlier that day. He refused to coorporate and laid on the ground refusing to leave. A brawl occurred and his son joined him in protest. Mendoza saw the whole scene live on the bus's TV and demanded his brother to be released or he'll start shooting. He eventually lost his patience and shot a tour guide (handcuffed to the door) dead. He then opened fire on the hostages. A hostage  named Joe and another fellow hostage attempted to attack Mendoza. Mendoza shot and killed the fellow hostage and Joe retreated back to his seat where he put his bag in front of his head as defence. Mendoza's bullets blasted the bag to pieces wounding both of Joe's hands and then leaned forward playing dead.

The bus driver had his handcuffs taken away and was ordered to drive. Police shot the tires and Mendoza started firing on the hostages at the back of the bus. The driver then jumped out of the window and ran to police. The driver kept yelling that everyone is dead. Police never interviewed him and assumed that all hostages were killed. This was another missed opportunity to gather important intellegence about the situation inside the bus. Police only interviewed Mendoza's brother Gregorio and still had problems detaining him. The Special Action Force (SAF), trained by the FBI, were deployed under the orders of President Aquino. The police commander however decided to order the police SWAT to conduct the assault instead. The SWAT team were surprised seeing that the SAF were ordered by the president to deploy. The police managed to publish a letter granting Mendoza reinstatement and approved his name to be cleared. The letter was not delivered as it was stuck in traffic and did not make it on time. Attempts to contact Mendoza's cellphone failed. At 7:37pm, the SWAT were deployed with three snipers hiding in the Quirino Grandstand. The heavy rain made it difficult to get a visual on Mendoza. The SWAT team hid on the side of the bus smashing the windows trying to get a clear visual but to their surprise, the windows were alot tougher than expected and tried breaching the front door before meeting gunfire from Mendoza. A tour guide was cuffed to the door dead and the SWAT commander was thinking of how to get in as the front door was jammed. The SWAT team were also seen throwing glow sticks inside and after failing to get in a number of times for ten minutes, they were given informal advice from the onlooking media. They were recommended to breach the back door. They did so and finally able to get in before again meeting Mendoza's gunfire. As the situation was filmed live, Mendoza was able to see the SWAT team's action on the bus's TV. At 8:11pm, the SAF were finally ordered to join the SWAT in assaulting the bus. Tear gas was thrown into the back of the bus which forced Mendoza moved to the front of the bus and at 8:41pm, a police sniper shot and killed him. He laid dead on the front door. Nine hostages were also killed and six were injured.

When the siege was over, there were complete disorginisation with media being able to get up close to the bus slowing down emergency services doing their job. There were a lack of coordination in medical support which led to victims turned away from hospitals which caused more delays for medical treatment.

The police were heavily criticised on their hostage rescue attempt. Critics claimed that Mendoza had let his guard down several times by exposing himself which gave snipers the golden opportunity to kill him. Experts claim that the police should have cut a circuit under the bus that would enable the front door to open and by going on low profile, be able to enter quickly to end the situation.