Manila, Philippines — One of the mobile phones of dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, a key evidence in the hostage drama in front of the Quirino Grandstand last August 23, was inadvertantly turned over to Hong Kong authorities.
This was revealed on Saturday by Assistant hostage-negotiator Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador at the second day of the inquiry conducted by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) chaired by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The mobile phone was given to Hong Kong authorities by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) officials who reportedly mistook it for one of the hostage victims' cellphones.
“Nalaman namin na iyong cellphone na iyon nai-turnover daw ng CIDG sa Hong Kong authorities. Akala kasi pag-aari ng isa sa mga Hong Kong victims,” Salvador said.
With this development, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) may have a difficult time tracing the person who last talked to Mendoza before he described as “garbage” the letter from the Office of the Ombudsman.
At Saturday’s hearing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, chairman of the IIRC, directed the NBI to establish the identity of the person who last talked to Mendoza over a mobile phone.
At the resumption of inquiry into the August 23 hostage drama in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park conducted by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC), De Lima directed the NBI to coordinate with Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for documents or pieces of evidence to establish the identity of the person who last talked with Mendoza.
De Lima noted the earlier claim of Superintendent Orlando Yebra, the chief hostage negotiator, that Mendoza was talking with someone over a mobile phone while he was reading the content of the letter of the Ombudsman stating that Mendoza’s case would be reviewed within 10 days.
Mendoza then uttered the words: “Basura ito. Ang kailangan namin ay order for immediate reinstatement.” (“This is pure garbage. What we need is immediate reinstatement.”)
Moreno, who had acted as vice chair of the local Crisis Management Committee (CMC), appeared before the panel answered questions ranging from the state of the mind of Mendoza during the hostage-taking, the activation of CMS as well as its powers and functions, details of the Ombudsman’s letter he secured, and other matters concerning his role in the negotiation.
The vice mayor told the committee that he volunteered to secure a letter from the Ombudsman to assure Mendoza that it would review his case. He later acted as “mediator” between the hostage-taker and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Moreno told the panel that he was the one who secured a letter from the Ombudsman’s main office in Quezon City and had requested Gutierrez to talk to the hostage-taker over a mobile phone.
He said the Ombudsman eventually talked to Mendoza but was not aware of what they talked about.
“Pasensiya na po hindi ako tsismoso,” told Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) President Herman Besbano.
The vice mayor also said he managed to “mediate” before the suspect’s 3 p.m. deadline for the authorities to give in to his demands.
Moreno also told the panel that the hostage-taker’s brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, was with Yebra when they delivered the Ombudsman’s letter.
The brother even read the letter for the hostage-taker.
He added that he said he did not divulge this information to media despite repeated calls made by several news agencies.
Opportunity to subdue
Salvador, meanwhile, told the committee that he had the opportunity to subdue Mendoza early on but Yebra stopped him, saying it was not in the (hostage negotiation) manual.
Asked by the panel if he was capable of subduing Mendoza, Salvador said he was very near Mendoza who was standing at the door of the bus and could have subdued him. At that time, Mendoza was still calm and cooperative.
He added that early on, Mendoza did not show any sign of violence.
Mendoza’s demand that time was for his immediate reinstatement.
“Bok (friend) magbigay lang ng re-instatement order ko, bababa na ko dito,” Salvador quoted Mendoza as saying. (Friend, if they issue a reinstatement order, I’ll get off the bus.”)
Salvador also overheard Mendoza talking with somebody, reportedly from the Office of the Ombudsman, who was allegedly demanding P150,000 for the dismissed police official’s case.
“Humihingi ka pa ng 150 thousand pesos para sa kaso ko, P…I… ka, kung may mamamatay dito kasalanan mo ito,” Salvador quoted Mendoza as telling the person on the other end of the phone.
Jeamma Sabate, Manila Bulletin