MANILA, Philippines — Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim on Tuesday dared authorities to charge him but requested that Vice Mayor Isko Moreno be spared.
Lim said this in reaction to the Incident Investigation Review Committee (IIRC) report disclosed Monday by President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Lim expressed his disappointment over the turn of events, with his accomplishments now overshadowed by the August 23 hostage fiasco.
“In my 50 years of service, I performed my duties to the best of my ability. Nobody can say I have been remiss. But because of this hostage crisis, my name has been tarnished. The name of Vice Mayor Moreno has also been tarnished,” he lamented.
“In my opinion, the investigation should just focus on the shortcomings of the incident, then recommend ways on how not to repeat the situation,” Lim suggested.
“My only request is that they remove the name of Vice Mayor Isko from the list. Let them file charges against me. He did nothing wrong, I was the one who authorized him to go to the Ombudsman,” Lim said.
“I can stand on my own because I know I had done nothing wrong,” he added. “I am not blaming anybody. That's just the way the ball bounces. If you are unlucky, then you are unlucky.”
Showing his loyalty to the mayor, Moreno said he and Lim are ready to face the consequences together should President Aquino find them guilty of any wrongdoing. “Should Mayor Lim be imprisoned, I would let myself be imprisoned as well. We are together in this,” he said.
In a press conference on Tuesday at the Manila City Hall, department heads and city councilors surrounded to expressed their support to the two beleaguered officials.
“We have nothing but respect for the Department of Justice (DoJ), especially its Secretary Leila de Lima. They are entitled to their own opinion,” Lim and Moreno said.
But Lim expressed his disappointment why Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of hostage-taker dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was not included in the list.
He also revealed that he was not informed of two critical conversations – one involving Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador and Captain Mendoza, and the other involving Captain Mendoza and Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III. “The conversations were not relayed to me,” he said. I am deeply sorry that it was not relayed to me. If I knew then, I would have told them to give Mendoza whatever they wanted.”
Lim also stressed that as head of the Crisis Management Committee (CMC), his and Moreno's roles consisted only of logistical support. "We were there to give advice, to formulate guidelines and proceedings on how to control the situation," he explained.
Moreno told the Manila Bulletin that he was saddened when he first heard about the IIRC report. "It's sad to think that this happened, since during that time, we were part of those who were producing safe and unharmed hostages," he said.
He said he had no regrets for his role during the hostage-taking.
“People serving in the government should be responsible for their own actions. It's part of our jobs. Whether or not it's a local or national problem, people from the government should join hands and help each other out," he noted.
Lim defends cops
Lim also expressed his trust and admiration towards policemen involved in the operation who are still being condemned by the public.
On the verge of tears, with his fist slamming the table, Lim asked members of the media, "Sino ba ang willing magpakamatay para sa inyo? Pulis lang! Pulis lang ang magpapakamatay para sa inyo! Ano ang mapapala natin ngayon sa kakasisi sa kanila? (Who are willing to die for you? It's only the policemen! It's only the policemen who would be willing to die for you. What will you gain now from blaming them?)"
“They are paid to die for you, so huwag small-in ang mga pulis (don't look down on policemen),” he added.
Ombudsman Merceditas N. Gutierrez and Deputy Ombudsman for Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Gonzales III expressed surprise and dismay over their indictment by the IIRC for not giving in to the demands of hostage-taker Mendoza.
Deputy Ombudasman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni said that the anti-graft body was never part of the negotiating panel handling the hostage crisis.
He said Ms. Gutierrez never promised the hostage-taker for his reinstatement in the police force.
“In fact, Mendoza knew the contents of the letter even before it was personally handed to him by Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno because Ms. Gutierrez and Gonzales talk to him about it and appeared satisfied that was why he agreed to release one of the hostages,” Jalandoni said.
NCRPO chief ready
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Leocadio Santiago who was among the local and police officials held liable by the IIRC for the hostage fiasco said he would abide to whatever decision that President Aquino would make with regards to his liability on the incident.
Santiago, in a television interview, was quoted as saying that “it’s all part of our service, whatever our superior says, when the President speaks, then we all follow.”
De Lima to inhibit
Justice Secretary De Lima said she is open to the option of inhibiting herself in the event criminal charges are filed before the Department of Justice (DoJ) against certain personalities in connection with the August 23 hostage-taking in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
“It is always an option because of the preconception from some people that I have already prejudged the case,” said De Lima. She said the DoJ has undersecretaries that could take handle the case.
Czarina Nicole Ong, Manila Bulletin