ANGERING a hostage-taker at any point in the negotiation phase can have tragic consequences.

Cagayan de Oro City Police Director Benedicto Lopez offered this thought after the bloody aftermath of a 12-hour hostage drama in the heart of Manila that killed eight Hong Kong tourists, along with their Filipino hostage-taker.

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Media coverage was blamed as one of the problems in the botched negotiations, as the gunman, former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was allowed to speak on radio and watch events live on the bus's television, giving him insights into police actions.

Journalists like Erwin Tulfo of TV5 who covered the incident, however, turned the tables on the police, saying Mendoza had only started acting agitated upon watching his younger brother being arrested by the police.

Dir. Lopez said Mendoza should not have been provoked.

“Wag galitin ang hostage-taker. Mali yun,” the police official said.

Despite this, Lopez said he was not in the position to say whether the entire operation had been bungled, a point shared by Deputy City Police Director Antonio Montalba, who has his share of handling hostage dramas in the city.

The volatile nature of hostage-taking situations makes it impossible to assess whether the team handling a particular case had made a correct decision, said Supt. Montalba.

“It’s hard for me to comment, especially that the negotiating team was dealing with a hostage taker who was a well-trained and once a decorated police officer,” the police official told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.

Montalba also disagreed with criticisms that the Philippine National Police (PNP) remains incapable of handling hostage situations.

“No matter how ready or equipped you are, mistakes can always happen. You can’t predict the outcome of a hostage situation,” he added. (DVAIII/ALR)