MANILA —A sniper’s shot killed a dismissed police officer last night, nearly 11 hours after he took hostage a busload of Chinese tourists, in a bid to get his job back.
At least nine tourists died, while six others survived. Nine others were released earlier in the day, in exchange for food and a power connection the hostage-taker demanded so he could charge his phone.
The crisis began when the dismissed senior inspector, Rolando Mendoza, 55, boarded the bus carrying an M16 rifle .
Awarded one of the country’s Ten Most Outstanding Policemen in 1986, Mendoza was recently dismissed in connection with some subordinates’ case for robbery, extortion and grave threats.
He was scheduled to retire in January 2011, his family said.
Hong Kong immediately issued a “black travel alert” warning its residents to avoid all travel to the Philippines.
The hostage drama stretched local television and radio stations’ news programs, and headlined most of the international TV networks’ newscasts the whole day.
The shooting began after 7 p.m., moments after local television aired footage of Mendoza’s brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, being carried into custody by the Manila police.
The bus driver, who remained unidentified last night, jumped out and ran to safety. He yelled that everyone on the bus was dead.
Assault teams who approached, however, were kept back by more gunfire from inside the bus.
Senior Supt. Nelson Yabut said the hostage-taker was killed by a sniper’s shot to the head, after he wounded a police sharpshooter.
At least four of his captives were then seen crawling out the back door of the bus.
Police and ambulances lined up next to the vehicle in the pouring rain after the standoff ended.
According to newspaper reports from 2008, Mendoza was among five officers who had been charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats, after a Manila hotel chef filed a complaint alleging the policemen falsely accused him of using drugs to extort money.
The gunman released nine hostages during the afternoon, leaving 15 inside, and demanded his job back to free the rest.
Despite hopes that negotiations might bring the stand-off to a peaceful conclusion, tensions escalated as night closed in.
Police said they stormed the bus after they saw Mendoza open fire on hostages.
Before the drama’s bloody end, Malacañang issued a statement that the crisis would have little effect on the tourism industry, and that foreign investors would understand it did not reflect the actual situation in the entire country.
Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma said the hostage-taker should have remembered to honor the lives of the people he held, because they had nothing to do with his situation.
Coloma said several personalities, including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, a former National Bureau of Investigation chief, were immediately at the site to lend assistance.
Mendoza, an awardee of the Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines of the Jaycees International in 1986, wanted to be reinstated and to clear his name.
He was set to retire on Jan. 10.
An official of the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Philippine authorities must take appropriate actions in the aftermath of the hostage drama.
In a phone interview, Chinese Embassy in Manila spokesman Ethan Sun said the matter should not be forgotten immediately.
The Chinese embassy sent a team group to the Quirino Grandstand in Manila to help solve the hostage situation and ensure the tourists’ safety.
The bus also carried one local tour guide and two cameramen, both Filipinos.
The foreigners were on their way to the Manila Ocean Park, for one last tour before their trip back home last night.
Mendoza reportedly boarded the Hong Thai Travel tourist bus around 10:15 a.m. in Intramuros. By 9 p.m., wire agencies were circulating photos of him slumped, dead, on the bus’ doorstep. (AP/Sunnex)