Lawmakers want to probe hostage-taking incident

August 25, 2010 10:17 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Aug. 24 — After condemning in the strongest terms possible the ill-fated hostage taking Monday by a former Philippine National Police officer at the Quirino Grandstand which caused the death of 10 captives, lawmakers also called for a thorough investigation of the incident.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo filed House Resolution no. 277 directing the appropriate committee to conduct an investigation of the hostage crisis perpetrated by dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza, who was killed in the nighttime assault of a SWAT team.

"This is the final time that we should now seriously study all the angles of the incident starting from the reasons why Mendoza has to resort to what he did, to the explanation of the police authorities why they have failed to negotiate and handle the crisis properly and systematically," said Castelo in a statement.

Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles agreed that there is a need for the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on the incident and who made lapses in judgment that led to the death of the hostages, and how it can be avoided in the future.

But Nograles said the government must review first "the way complaints and cases filed against police officers and AFP soldiers are processed and decided."

"These cases must be speedily decided and given due course with adequate remedies available to the respondents. They must be able to feel that justice is working," he said.

Nograles said there is also a need to study again the procedure by which police and SWAT teams handle hostage situations.

"There were lapses on judgment made during the hostage crisis that led to the death of several hostages. The fact that these hostages were Chinese nationals doesn't help. Now, it will be known in the international community how we bungled the situation," he said.

The Akbayan party-list representatives also called for a swift, comprehensive and impartial investigation of the incident.

"We call on the Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa to exercise due discretion and judiciousness by putting all police personnel involved in the assault in preventive suspension so as not to interfere in whatever way in the investigation of the case," they said.

They also called on the government "to comprehensively review the country’s security program with the end view of implementing significant reforms that will fully professionalize our security forces particularly our national police."

On the other hand, Cebu Rep. Luis Quisumbing filed House Bill no. 2737 which calls for a news blackout during hostage crisis situations.

"Care should be taken to avoid disclosure of vital information to the perpetrators until the crisis situation is resolved," he said.

Ten hostages, most of them Hong Kong nationals, were killed in the 11-hour crisis that is expected to affect the country’s tourism industry.

Quisumbing stressed that his bill does not aim to curtail press freedom.

"Our bill guarantees that once the crisis is settled, media will have full access to information about the police or military operations and coverage shall not be restricted," he said.

The neophyte lawmaker said the primary intention of his proposed measure is to protect the lives of policemen and soldiers in such situations.

The bill prohibits media personnel from reporting positions, movements and actions of the police and military during hostage-taking situations and other similar incidents like bomb threats, coup d’etat, and kidnapping.

The police and military leadership may provide an update to media but shall not provide vital information on operations that may be used in support of or by the perpetrators during the crisis situation.

Once the situation is resolved, the police and the military will provide the full details of the operation and shall not restrict access or coverage by the media.

Those who will violate the bill, once enacted, shall suffer imprisonment from six months to six years or a fine of P20,000.

Meanwhile, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano asked the government to make necessary diplomatic measures to protect Filipino communities in Hong Kong.

Mariano said more than 150,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are currently working in Hong Kong, most of them as domestic helpers. (PNA)

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