News / Asia

Philippine Officials Admit Failure in Hostage Shootout

Ira Mellman

Flags flew at half staff in Hong Kong Tuesday. One of the newspapers there displayed a headline that read “Philippino Police Incompetent" and protestors gathered to demonstrate outside of the Philippines consulate.

In Manila, Alberto Lim, the Philippine Secretary of Tourism told an interviewer that his government now agreed with the assessment "that it could have been handled much better.”

Lim went on to tell Bloomberg Television that what he thought had gone awry was when the brother of the hostage taker came onto the scene. "He was able to skip through the lines and he make a big scene which resulted in him being arrested by the police. And I guess the hostage taker was monitoring this on the television on the bus and I think that turned the situation," Lim said.

The gunman, a former police officer who was angry that he had been dismissed from the force was killed by police.
It is not yet known if the eight hostages who were killed were shot by the gunman or by the police forces trying to end the siege.

The police said its command group noted what it called "some observations and defects" in handling the crisis, including "inadequate capability, skills, equipment and planning of the assault team." Other issues they cited included poor handling of hostage negotiations, side issues and events that agitated the hostage-taker, improper crowd control and a breakdown of media relations procedures in a hostage situation which was beamed live by global news networks. 

The Chinese Ambassador to Manila, Liu Jianchao, met Tuesday with top level officials including Philippine President Benigno Aquino. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino promised a prompt investigation on the incident and said all measures would be taken to avoid a repeat of what happened. Lacierda added that the Chinese ambassador also asked that "the Philippine side take some concrete measures to ensure safety of the Chinese tourists."

According to the spokesman, President Aquino also telephoned Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Tuesday after the Hong Kong leader had criticized the rescue Monday. The President expressed regret and deep sorrow for the incident, said Lacierdo.

Volunteers from the large Filipino-Chinese community in Manila offered their help to the survivors along with the relatives of the victims, rushing them to the hospital after the siege and providing translation help.

A Buddhist ceremony was held for the victims Tuesday at the wrecked bus, which remained on the road where the day-long siege had taken place, and President Aquino declared Wednesday a day of mourning in the Philippines.

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