MANILA, Philippines - Police said 58 spent shells were recovered from inside the bullet-riddled Hong Thai Travel tour bus, the scene of the tragic hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand last August 23, all of them from hostage-taker, dismissed cop Rolando Mendoza.
The bus has been brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for forensic tests to determine the trajectory of the bullets that went into and were fired from the bus.
"58 na mga empty shells na galing po sa M16, 'yun po lahat ay galing lahat sa M16, yung armalite rifle na gamit-gamit ni Rolando Mendoza. Lahat po 'yun ay pinaputok papunta sa mga biktima at papunta doon sa assault team," said PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz.
But as many as 20 bullets were also fired by the assault team based on documents obtained by ABS-CBN News. The bullets hit different parts of the bus, including:
the driver's side window;
a window near some of the passengers;
the bus's tires; and,
a window near the door.
Investigators are now trying to determine if some of the hostages were killed or wounded by friendly fire.
Policemen who joined the assault on the hijacked bus have turned over their firearms to the crime laboratory for ballistic testing.
The ground commander at the time of the hostage crisis, former Manila Police District (MPD) chief Rodolfo Magtibay, appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday to give his sworn statement.
He apologized to Hong Kong media for the bungled rescue operation.
"I am very sorry for the unnecessary loss of lives. I would like to extend my condolences to the families. I did my best," Magtibay said.
The negotiators, led by Police Superintendent Romeo Salvador, Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) anchor Michael Rogas, who interviewed Mendoza before he went on a shooting rampage, and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, also gave their sworn statements.
Despite a gag order, Moreno faced reporters to criticize those blaming him for the botched negotiations.
"Ang gusto ko, ang lahat ng tao sa pamahalaan ay maging responsable, di ba? At least, sort of saying magkaroon naman sila ng bayag," Moreno said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the head of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee, is now reminding those involved in the crisis to refrain from talking to the media.
De Lima is instead inviting them to the committee's hearing on Friday.
Among those invited are Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Verzosa, and the woman who accompanied the hostage-taker from Tanauan, Batangas to Fort Santiago in Manila.
Meantime, President Aquino paid a surprise visit to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Wednesday to view the bus used during the hostage-taking incident.
Accompanying Aquino were PNP officials, including National Capital Region Police Office chief Leocadio Santiago.
Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma said the President met with other police officials in his surprise visit, but refused to divulge further information about his trip. -- Report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News
by abs cbn