MANILA, Philippines—The Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) has accused Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay of incompetence and disobedience and said that his actions at the critical moments caused the “debacle” during last month’s bloody hostage drama.
A confidential portion of the IIRC report, a copy of which was made available to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday, said that Magtibay had the “biggest accountability” among 13 people blamed for the botched rescue.
President Benigno Aquino III has withheld the committee’s recommendations pending a review by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Chief Presidential Legal Adviser Eduardo de Mesa.
The committee recommended both administrative and criminal actions against Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
The IIRC headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima came up with a harshly worded, critical discussion of the accountabilities of each of the 13 individuals it had recommended for either administrative or criminal liabilities in its 83-page report.
The committee described Magtibay as an “incompetent commander, organizer, and manager,” who was “grossly and recklessly insubordinate at a most crucial moment.”
Magtibay served as the ground commander during the Aug. 23 standoff in which eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage-taker, dismissed Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza who was seeking the dismissal of extortion and robbery charges against him, were killed.
“One is tempted to put the whole blame on the hostage debacle upon him, if not for the equally incomprehensible lapses and indecisions committed by both his superiors and men all throughout the hostage crisis, specifically on strategy, intelligence, coordination, and deployment,” the panel said.
“It is without question that he carries the biggest accountability for the disastrous and murderous outcome of the hostage crisis.”
Following the bloodbath that sparked outrage in China and Hong Kong, Magtibay was sacked as chief of the Manila Police District (MPD).
The committee recommended administrative charges be brought against six police officials and said they should be subjected to a preliminary investigation by an appropriate agency to determine if they should be charged criminally.
The are Magtibay, retired Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, Undersecretary Rico E. Puno of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Capital Region Police Office Director Leocadio Santiago Jr., chief negotiator Supt. Orlando Yebra, and Manila SWAT head Chief Insp. Santiago Pascual Jr.
Stronger action vs Lim
IIRC member Roan Libarios of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines told the Inquirer by phone that the recommendation against Lim was stated differently. He said the “committee took a stronger position” against Lim because of the “recklessness of his actions.”
The committee said Lim failed to properly convene the local crisis management committee, left the command post to go to Emerald Garden restaurant after a “very serious collapse in negotiations” and brought with him police officials such as Magtibay.
“If he was hungry, why didn’t he just request for food to be brought to the command post?” Libarios said.
The panel said Lim countermanded the decision of Magtibay and Yebra not to use Mendoza’s brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, in the negotiations but later ordered Gregorio to be brought instead to “Tondo,” a police euphemism for summary execution.
Libarios said Lim’s actions were “completely unwarranted under the circumstances.”
He said the mayor would undergo preliminary investigation like the six other police officials to determine criminal liabilities.
Lim has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Libarios explained that the IIRC did not include the specific criminal violations it had in mind because that would be “preempting the preliminary investigation.”
“As a fact-finding committee, we do not have the authority to file [cases] directly against them. We cannot be the investigator, prosecutor, and judge all at the same time,” he said.
Among the highlights of the panel’s conclusions:
• Vice Mayor Isko Moreno “committed clear acts of negligence and dereliction of duty for not knowing the particular organization and responsibilities of city officials as members of the crisis management committee.”
• Puno is not authorized to assume the functions of Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo as chair of the national crisis committee and his admitted lack of training and experience may have compromised the readiness of the national committee when it became apparent that its local counterpart could not handle the situation.
• Verzosa left for Cagayan de Oro for an official function and failed to intervene after admitting he was “alarmed” by the arrest of Gregorio Mendoza while monitoring the incident from afar.
• Santiago committed “gross insubordination” after he failed to utilize the Special Action Force despite orders from the President.
• Yebra failed to “not properly appreciate” hostage-taker Mendoza’s profile and failed to request for intelligence information when there was none provided to him.
• Pascual failed to exercise the degree of diligence required of an assault commander.
• Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III “committed serious and inexcusable negligence and gross violation of their office’s own rules of procedure which states that a motion for recommendation in administrative disciplinary cases should be resolved in five days, when Mendoza’s case languished for nine months, and enforced judgment of dismissal which precipitated the desperate resort to hostage-taking.”
• Broadcasters Michael Rogas, Erwin Tulfo, dzXL management and personnel violated their code of ethics and possibly the Revised Penal Code by conducting an interview with Mendoza.
Nikko Dizon, Phil. Daily Inquirer