MANILA, Philippines - The policeman brother of hostage taker Rolando Mendoza was so fearful for his life that he had to resort to creating a scene to call the attention of the mass media.
Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza of the Manila Police District (MPD) traffic bureau told the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) yesterday that he had to trigger a commotion to prevent what he believed was an order to silence him.
Gregorio said he called on some of the journalists to protect him while he was being dragged by arresting policemen into a waiting van.
Gregorio said he overheard an order from Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
“Ang sabi po ni Mayor Lim, ‘Kapag natuloy ang hostage-taking, isama n’yo na yan (Mayor Lim said, ‘If the hostage-taking proceeded, take him with you’),” Gregorio said.
Gregorio told the panel led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that those words could only come from Lim who had a reputation as a veteran police officer.
Gregorio said he has been in the police service for a long time and those words are “not good” in police parlance.
“Those words mean a very dangerous thing for us policemen,” he said.
Told to be more specific, Gregorio said he believes the order was meant to bring his older brother down along with him.
“That was why I ran to escape from their plan to include me in their plan to kill my brother,” he said.
Gregorio belied the earlier claims that he was being brought to the MPD headquarters so as not to interfere in the negotiations.
The MPD said Gregorio is being charged for provoking his brother to go against the negotiators.
Gregorio said he learned Lim issued an order to take him out of the area discreetly through the backdoor of the police outpost at the Luneta without alerting the media throng who had staked out during the 11-hour standoff.
“If they had good intentions, they should have not taken me away from the sight of the media people who have already been seeing me all throughout,” Gregorio said in Filipino.
“They did not escort me. They wanted to arrest me,” he stressed.
Gregorio told the panel that he only made a scene to prevent him from being arrested from any offense that he might have committed.
At this point, Gregorio was asked on the reason why he allegedly told his brother not to give up his fight because authorities had not returned the service firearm that they confiscated from him.
Gregorio denied making the statement. He said his only mistake was when he shouted back at negotiator Superintendent Orlando Yebra, who reprimanded him for mentioning the firearm to his brother.
“That was my only mistake - because he is a colonel and I am just a sergeant. I told Col. Yebra that I only told my brother of the truth. And then he (Yebra) told me that I should be charged for being accessory in the hostage taking,” Gregorio said.
Gregorio said he had no idea that his brother would resort to hostage taking to highlight his demands.
Mendoza, a decorated police officer who had been sacked over extortion charges, took a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in Manila on Aug. 23, demanding to be reinstated.
This led to a siege and muddled police negotiations that ended with Mendoza and eight of the tourists dead.
He recalled the last time that he saw his brother on July 29 during the wedding of Mendoza’s eldest child.
Gregorio said they did not talk about the issue of the dismissal from the police service since they were having a celebration at that time.
Gregorio said what might have triggered his brother to carry out his threat was when his demands were not met by the Ombudsman that only assured him that his case would be reviewed.
Mendoza wanted a full reinstatement with a clean slate in the police force.
Killed like chickens
The panel, on the other hand, concluded its third day of hearing in taking the testimony of Lourdes Amansec, assistant manager of the company that owns the Hong Thai tourist bus.
Amansec said bus driver Alberto Lubang immediately told her after escaping from the scene that Mendoza killed the hostages “just like chickens.”
She said Lubang witnessed how the hostage taker shot the hostages one after the other after seeing Gregorio being arrested.
“He (Lubang) said Mendoza was really mad and started shooting when he saw his brother being treated badly on TV. Nanlilisik daw mata (His eyes were red in anger),” Amansec told the panel.
Amansec said she learned of the hijacking of the bus just after 9 a.m.
Amansec said she received a text from Lubang quoting “host g pizal park.”
They called up Lubang but did not answer. Amansec said she decided to call-up the tourist guide, Diana, who answered and confirmed that they were being held hostage by Mendoza.
Diana said she managed to call back because she was seated at the back of the bus away from the direct view of the hostage taker.
Amansec said she went to the Luneta Park to see for herself the tourist bus parked in front of the Quirino Grandstand.
Amansec told the panel that the police precinct nearby initially did not believe her until after convincing them that there was a hostage-taking going on in the parked bus.
She said the police then informed the MPD headquarters of the ongoing hostage situation.
Amansec revealed none of the policemen even bothered to ask her the configuration of the bus or how it could be entered.
The hearing would resume today for clarificatory questioning of Lubang and media personalities including GMA-7 reporter Susan Enriquez, Erwin Tulfo and Jake Maderazo of Radio Mindanao Network.
In the afternoon, the panel is expected to conduct an ocular inspection of the site of the incident in Quirino Grandstand.
Eddu Punay, Philippine Star