Manila, Philippines — Television broadcasters Susan Enriquez of GMA-7 and Erwin Tulfo of TV5 on Wednesday told the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IICR) that they did not obstruct or interfere in police operations during the hostage-taking last August 23 in front of the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park in Manila.
Enriquez and Tulfo both testified that they did not violate protocol, media ethics, or media guidelines in the conduct of the coverage.
Teresita Ang-See, the representative of the Filipino-Chinese community in the panel, commended
Enriquez for telling Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, then Manila Police District (MPD) director, that she could not act as negotiator.
Enriquez said the policy of GMA Network prohibits them to act as negotiator as well as to give live airtime about grievances of a hostage-taker.
However, Ang-See inquired from Enriquez about the journalists’ code of ethics as well as guidelines in the conduct of coverage in incidents where there are persons whose lives are in danger. She also asked her about the airing live of the arrest of dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza’s brother which was monitored on TV by the hostage-taker himself.
Enriquez said she was not aware and what she knew it was a phone-patch and said if only the authorities told them not to air that, she would have complied then.
While Enriquez was commended, Tulfo got some criticism from Ang See.
“Because he (Mendoza) wanted to grandstand for the media so that everybody would hear him and you provided the arena for that, don’t you think that that was what happened?” Ang See told Tulfo.
Tulfo, who covered the event as TV5 chief correspondent, insisted he followed the protocol for coverage and in fact the television network decided not to air live the incident to ensure that it would not affect the negotiation and the police operation.
He said he was not aware that the last phone conversation with Mendoza was aired live because it was the RMN-dzXL who called him up. He said he is also a radio anchor in RMN-dzXL.
But Tulfo insisted that it was the arrest of Mendoza’s brother Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza that triggered the hostage-taker to get angry and threatened to kill his hostages if his brother would not be released.
Enriquez told the panel that the hostage-taker aired his grievances, specifically his Ombudsman case and the imminent lossw of retirement benefits during her brief phone conversation with him during the height of hostage-taking last August 23.
Enriquez told the IICR that she declined to go inside the hijacked tourist bus on request of Mendoza since the GMA network has a policy not to act as negotiator with a hostage-taker.
She told the committee that he arrived at the Luneta police community precinct (PCP) around 2 p.m. to cover the hostage-taking which she described as “very newsworthy.”
Magtibay told Enriquez that Mendoza wanted her to go inside the tourist bus and to talk with her. But she declined to be a negotiator.
Aquino in no-holds barred interview
President Benigno S. Aquino III will have on Thursday (September 9) a no-holds barred panel interview over three major broadcasting stations to answer questions on his participation in the bungled police rescue during the August 23 hostage drama in Manila which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the panel interview to be held at the Presidential Studio, Kalayaan Hall from 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. will be broadcast by GMA7, ABS-CBN, and TV5.
Only ABS-CBN's News Channel as of press time has committed to air the panel interview live, he said.
The panel members would include GMA7' Mike Enriquez, ABS-CBN's Ted Failon, and TV5's Paolo Bediones.
Lacierda said the interview is meant to settle all the questions on live broadcast on the involvement of the President in the hostage drama.
Robredo resign call snowballs
Congressmen on Wednesday strongly advised acting Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo to resign immediately after failing to receive the trust and confidence of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez and Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay said the acting DILG head should resign because of differences with his work and campaign style with that of the new chief executive.
“He (Robredo) should leave the Cabinet. There was never full trust and confidence with him by the commander-in-chief,” Benitez said.
For her part, House minority member Magsaysay said tendering his resignation will save Robredo from humiliation.
“For a Magsaysay awardee like Robredo, I will not allow myself to be insulted and humiliated in that manner. He should just leave his post,” Magsaysay said.
But Robredo, speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon during the 44th Foundation Anniversary of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) where he serves as chairman, reiterated that he “serves at the pleasure of the President.”
“I’d rather listen to the good angels (than listen to those calling for my resignation),” Robredo said.
“Things like that, I need to examine those very closely. As I’ve said, I can leave anytime. We serve at the pleasure of the President. That’s still my view on the matter. Its temporary job for me,” he said.
But House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III defended Robredo, saying the latter is qualified to his post.
“I believe that Sec. Robredo should stay. He is qualified for the position. But at the end of the day, it is up to the President whether he has trust and confidence on Sec. Robredo,” said Tanada.
Jeamma Sabate, Manila Bulletin