THE Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Tuesday identified the eight Chinese nationals killed in Manila hostage Monday staged by dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza.

PRC secretary general Gwen Pang identified the fatalities as Tse Ting Chung Masa, 30, Fu Cheuk Yan, 39, Leung Song Yi Jessie, 16, Yeung Yee Kam, 46, Yeung Yee Wa, 45, Wong Tze Lam, 50, Leung Doris Chung See, 20, and Leung Ken Kam Wing.

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Those who survived the hostage incident are Li Yick Biu, Li Fung Kwan, Tsang Yee Lai, Fu Chung Yin, Fu Chak Yin, Wong Ching Yat, Leung Jason Song Xen, Chang Kwok Chu Joe, Lo Kam Fun, Lee Ying Cheun, Ng Amy Yau Wong, Yik Zhu Ling, and Wong Cheuk Yu Tracy.

Photographer Danny Nebril, assistant photographer Rigor Cruz, Hong Thai Travel bus driver Bobet Lubang, and tour guide Dianne Chan are also safe.

The 13-year-old male bystander, Mike Ladrillo, who was hit with a stray bullet is still being treated at the Ospital ng Maynila.

Pang said all survivors already went through stress debriefing. Apart from attending to the victims health requirements, the PRC also informed the families of the victims of the incident.

Hostage-taker Mendoza died on the spot due to bullets fired by operatives of the Manila Police District-Special Weapon and Tactics (MPD-SWAT) who swooped down the hijacked Hong Thai tourist bus, ending the almost 11-hour standoff.

His body was brought to his family in Tanauan, Batangas.

Police Inspector Armando Macaraeg, chief of the Manila Police District-Homicide Section, said all eight Hong Kong tourists were killed by Mendoza, citing initial investigation showing that the victims sustained bullets from the suspect's gun.

“But we still have to wait for the final result of the investigation of the Scene of the Crime Office (Soco) to verify our initial findings,” he said.

Recovered from the slain hostage-were an M-16 rifle loaded with ammunitions, three M-16 rifle magazines; two banana-type magazines for M-16 rifle and an empty magazine for M-16 rifle, and a caliber .45 pistol.

Meanwhile, the Filipino bus driver who was able to escape the hijacked tourist bus narrated their ordeal minutes before went amuck and shot at the passengers.

Alberto Lubang, the driver of the Hong Thai tourist bus, executed a sworn statement at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Manila Police District immediately after his daring escape.

Lubang, a resident of No. 46 San Mateo St., Taytay, Rizal, whose right hand was handcuffed from the steering wheel said, he forced to escape using the cuticle remover of his nail cutter while the hostage taker was busy shooting his victims at the back portion of the vehicle.

In his five-page statement, Lubang said that Mendoza was calm, until he monitored from the TV inside the bus about the arrest of his brother, SPO4 Gregorio Mendoza, which could have triggered his shooting rampage.

“Nakita ko na binaril na niya ‘yung tour guide na nakaposas sa estribo at sumunod na ‘yung mga lalaki’t babae na nakaupo sa mga upuan,” he said. It was then that he decided to jump out of the bus while Mendoza’s attention was diverted to the other hostages.

Lubang said that he used the pointed end of a cuticle remover to free himself from the handcuffs which Mendoza attached to the steering wheel.

He said that at about 6 p.m., the two negotiators who was accompanied by Mendoza’s brother handed a letter to the suspect apparently coming from the Office of the Ombudsman, stating that it will review his case.

“Hindi ito ang hiling ko, basura ito! Ibalik n’yo to, wala naman dyan ang gusto kong desisyon,” the driver quoted Mendoza as saying.

When the hostage taker was informed by his brother that his gun was to be confiscated by policemen, Mendoza started to get mad, the driver said. “Dito siya nagpaputok ng isang beses,” Lubang said as the three negotiators ran away from the bus.

“Lalo pang nagalit si Capt. Mendoza nung makita niya sa TV na pinoposasan na ang kapatid niya. Dun ko siya narinig na sumigaw na ‘Uubusin ko ang mga hostage, kaya dapat i-release nyo na yan,’” he said.

After this remark, he saw the suspect indiscriminately firing his gun.

Lubang said that after managing to remove the handcuffs from his hand, he forced himself out of the small window at his side.

Wreath laying

Families of those who died during the bloody crisis, offered flowers, light candles and chanted for their relatives in a makeshift altar, meters away from the bus where the incident happened.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said a Buddhist ritual was performed by the victims’ relatives as a way of saying goodbye for their departed love ones.

“They were chanting, burnt papers, where the names of the victims are written and also lighted candles,” he said.

A group of ladies, clad in yellow shirts also offered prayers to the victims as hundreds of people continue to flock in the area to take photos of the Hong Thai tourist bus.

“We are trying to encourage this offering to happen in other parts of the country, in Cebu, in Davao in support of the Hong Kong people,” he said.

RP delegation to Hong Kong

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III ordered Tuesday the formation of a high-level delegation tasked at explaining to the Hong Kong government regarding the tragic crisis.

“We have a plan to send a delegation to Hong Kong in the next few days,” said Palace aide Ricky Carandang.

Hong Kong officials demanded for a thorough explanation on what transpired in the 11-hour hostage drama.

There is no exact flight schedule yet for the delegation, which is possibly to be headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, according to Carandang.

He noted that there is no need for the President to personally appease the Hong Kong government who expressed outrage on the incident.

“I think para sa level ng Pangulo sapat na po yun kaya magpapadala ng high level delegation. Ang purpose nito ay ipaliwanag kung ano ang nangyari,” noted Carandang.

But the President personally expressed his sympathy and regret to the Chinese government by meeting with Chinese ambassador and Hong Kong officials in Malacanang.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa welcomed the officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Tuesday.

Aquino also personally called Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Donald Tsang to explain the incident.

Tsang was reportedly upset with the Aquino when he was apparently unreachable at the height of the crisis.

Lacierda explained that Aquino was in a closed-door meeting with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) when Tsang was trying to call him for details.

In the talk with Tsang, Carandang said President Aquino reiterated his sympathy to the Chinese government and regret how the hostage crisis came to an unfortunate end.

Briefing diplomatic corps

As repercussion of the tragic hostage-taking, several countries have issued travel advisories against the Philippines, warning their citizens on possible threats in the country.

To allay fears, Aquino ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to brief foreign envoys that the country is still safe for tourists and explained that the ordeal was just an isolated case.

“This is for the purposes of briefing the diplomatic corps of what happened and in the light of travel advisories to assure them that such are not needed for now,” said Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

The government also assured that an investigation will be launched in the next few days to ensure that justice be served to the victims.

Meanwhile, the executive department has gathered representatives from tourism, social welfare, local government, foreign affairs department, Manila government, charity and sweepstakes office and Red Cross to discuss what help the government could extend to the victims.

As of now, the government has provided interpreters and social workers to the victims to help them cope from the trauma caused by the incident.

The Chinese government had arranged chartered flights for its nationals involved in the tragedy.

Lacierda however cannot confirm if they will be giving compensation for the family of the victims.

Backlash to Pinoys

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) sought to appease families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployed in Hong Kong fearing of possible backlash from their employers due to the incident.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Owwa Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said she believed that Hong Kong nationals are “civilized” people and would not retaliate to OFWs.

“I don’t think they would get back at our household service workers (HSWs) there. Those are civilized people and they know that we are not part of the unfortunate incident and that it was an isolated incident.”

The Owwa chief advised HSWs in Hong Kong to simply go about their normal work, saying, “We are known by employers in Hong Kong as hardworking, efficient, and noble so they should just do that.”

Owwa records show that there are some 120,000 HSWs based in Hong Kong.

Travel ban

The Hong Kong government issued a total travel ban to the Philippines to its citizens after the death of its nationals Monday.

In its Outbound Travel Alert (OTA), the Hong Kong Security Bureau declared a “Severe Threat” in the Philippines, which means all travel to the Philippines should be avoided.

“A serious kidnap incident happened in the Philippines… residents should avoid all travel to the country,” said the Hong Kong government.

The Hong Kong government encouraged its people to use the travel alert as a reference in traveling to the country although it remains “a personal decision” whether they chooses to continue the journey.

It added that Hong Kong citizens who are already in the Philippines should “attend to their personal safety and exercise caution”.

The Chinese special administrative region noted that residents who need assistance while outside Hong Kong may call the hotline of the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit of the Immigration Department at 852-1868.

Aside from Hong Kong, the governments of Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and Russia also issued alert orders against travels to the Philippines.

Bus siege condemned

The Chinese government meantime condemned the bloody ending to the crisis that has brought death to it citizens in the Philippines.

“The Chinese Government strongly condemns the atrocity by the hostage-taker, expresses grave condolences to the victimized Hong Kong compatriots and conveys profound sympathy to the bereaved families,” it said.

China then urged Philippine authorities to make sure that a similar thing would not happen again by taking “concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of the Chinese citizens in the Philippines”.

Its officials added that it will be sending a working team to the country to help address the matter.

“The related authorities of China will keep close contact with the Philippine side and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, exert the utmost to save the injured and properly deal with the aftermath,” said the Chinese government.

Post hostage-taking probe

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa is personally heading the Post Critical Incident Management Committee (PCIMC) that will look deeply into Monday’s bus siege.

Verzosa said: “The unfortunate outcome of the hostage drama in Manila warrants a full-dress investigation to establish all circumstances surrounding the incident, and to determine whether or not there were lapses on the part of the concerned police unit.”

“We offer our deepest sympathy to the families of the deceased even as we extend a helping hand to the wounded victims and other survivors of this ordeal,” he added.

“But at this point, we do not want to pass sweeping judgment except to say that our intention to peacefully end this hostage drama was spoiled when the hostage-taker suddenly exhibited violent behavior and began shooting the hostages,” he pointed out.

Verzosa ordered the Chief of Directorial Staff to organize the PCIMC directly under his command.

The PCIMC is composed of Directorial Staff Offices tasked to perform different functions and aspects of investigation of the fact-finding body. These Directorial Staff Offices will be supported by lower PNP units.

The Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) under Chief Superintendent Arturo Cacdac will handle all criminal, administrative, and human rights aspects of investigation.

The Directorate for Intelligence under Police Director Raul Castañeda is tasked to conduct background investigation and profiling of suspects, including foreign liaisoning with counterpart police agencies.

The Directorate for Police Community Relations (DPCR) under Police Director Renato Heredia meantime will head the PCR and Media Relations arm to liaison and provide assistance to victims’ families, and conduct a review of existing media public relations policy in critical situations.

The Directorate for Operations will conduct a critique of the entire incident based on its debriefing of survivors, witnesses, and participating PNP personnel to formulate its own assessment and recommendations

Verzosa said the response of police forces on the ground to initiate counter measures to neutralize the aggression of the hostage-taker was the judgment call of the ground commander, which from all indications were justified.

PNP spokesman Agrimero Cruz Jr. said from the start, the general guidance for consideration of the ground commander had been the paramount concern for the safety of the hostages.

"Much as we want to dissect the entire incident to the smallest detail, we do not want to entertain speculations without the benefit of valid proof and reasonable basis," Cruz emphasized.

However, the PNP Command Group and Staff has noted some observations and defects during their close monitoring of the unfolding events.

Cruz said these observations include, among others, poor handling of the hostage negotiation; side issues and events that further agitated the hostage-taker; inadequate capability, skills, equipment and planning of the assault team; improper crowd control, and inadequate training and competence of assault team leader; and non-compliance to media relations procedures in hostage situations.

Psycho test for policemen

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said that members of the police and military should undergo psychological test.

“Definitely there is a need for a neuro-psychological test so we can be assured that they are psychologically and emotionally balanced. Otherwise, we will feel very unsafe because the ones having the weapons may turn against us,” said Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

He added that the test should be conducted on a regular basis to assure the public that the authorities could handle their deadly weapons properly.

“Anyone who holds the power and authority should be psychologically and emotionally stable because there will be no stability in the society if the people in power are unstable themselves.”

On the other hand, former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad said the psychological test should not be limited to authorities, as he suggested that all government officials should undergo the same test.

‘It should not be limited to armed men only but it should also include all those in government. There are some people who don’t have guns yet they bring about much bigger damage to our country,” he said.

Limit media coverage

A Cebuano lawmaker filed a proposed measure on Tuesday that will disallow media in detailing police and military movements in crisis situations in the wake of the bloody hostage drama.

Representative Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (sixth district, Cebu) said the blow-by-blow coverage done “may have jeopardized police operations onsite” after they reported the “position, movement and actions of the enforcers and authorities.”

Quisumbing identified the following as crisis situations: hostage taking, bomb threats, coup d’etat and kidnapping.

The lawmaker said that there have been attempts to restrain the flow of information through news blackouts, citing cases such as the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings, the coup d ‘etats during President Corazon Aquino, the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 and the 2007 Manila Peninsula seige.

“The author recognizes media’s right to have access to information and the freedom of the press. Nonetheless, such press freedom should be harmonized with the public welfare and measures to avoid further endangering lives in crisis situations,” he added.

Quisumbing said that media should be given limited access to information when a crisis is still in effect while directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to provide “full details of the operation” once the situation has been resolved.

Under the bill, violators will be penalized either six months to six years imprisonment or a fine of P20,000.

Police blunders

San Juan Representative JV Ejercito, however, puts the blame on the police for the unexpected resolution of the incident.

He said that National Capital Region Police director Leocadio Santiago, Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay and Special Weapons and Tactics operatives should be fired from their duties.

“The manner on how they handled the crisis situation exposed the ineptness of the police force in resolving hostage crises. It is unfortunate that the whole world saw the entire mismanagement of the situation,” said Ejercito.

Bagong Henerasyon partylist Bernadette Herrera-Dy suggested that the incident should be given to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to guarantee “objectivity” and avoid the suspicion of whitewash “in a police probe into actions of its own men.”

Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya (first district, Cavite) said the incident should serve as a “wake up call” for law-enforcement agencies and the public.

House probe

With this, the House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said he will back a full-blown investigation into the matter.

“There should be an investigation on the incident,” Belmonte said in a press briefing.

This developed after three representatives, Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo, Akbayan Representatives Arlene Bag-ao and Walden Bello, separately filed resolutions to investigate the incident.

Castelo said the following committees should conduct hearings, in aid of legislation: Public Order and Safety, Justice, National Defense and Security, and Civil Service and Professional Regulation.

“Let us put an end to all these grim scenarios especially so when it puts our image in a purely negative light for government failure to protect the lives of our citizens as well as other foreign nationals who happen to be our guests,” said Castelo, a member of the Justice committee.

Bag-ao and Bello, on the other hand, said in a separate statement that there is a “need to review the standard procedures of the PNP in handling hostage-taking situations to prevent future “tragic mistakes.”

“There is a need to review the protocol on media coverage and crowd control during the extremely volatile situations like the Quirino Grandstand hostage-taking incident where the civilians are at stake,” the two added.

The Senate, for its part, set a probe on Thursday through the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs chaired by Senator Gregorio Honasan.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said President Aquino should review the PNP’s performance. (Glaiza Jarloc/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/JCV/FP/AMN/Sunnex)