HOUSE Minority leader Edcel Lagman said Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, and chief communicators Ricky Carandang and Herminio Coloma should step down following the busted hostage crisis incident Monday.
Robredo, said Lagman, should take responsibility for what happened because he exercised jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police (PNP) whose ground commanders and elements failed to rescue the victims.
Carandang and Coloma meanwhile failed to rein the media from broadcasting the operations which allowed the hostage-taker, former Police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, to monitor the coverage on a television set inside the bus.
“Neither a postmortem of the tragic hostage-taking fiasco nor a contrite presidential apology will be enough if the heads of high ranking responsible officials are spared,” Lagman stressed.
He further stated that the incompetence of government officials should not be condoned to avoid inept hostage crisis operations and to assure foreign governments that the ineffectual performance will not be tolerated.
Robredo already admitted that there were lapses committed by police forces and vowed a review of the actions taken during the incident.
The Minority leader criticized Carandang and Coloma for not going to the Quirino Grandstand to monitor the situation.
If Robredo, Carandang, and Coloma will not resign voluntarily, Lagman said President Benigno Aquino III should fire them for "palpable incompetence and culpable indifference" and for being unmindful of the effects of the hostage crisis.
“The Aquino administration failed miserably in its response leading to the death of eight tourists from Hong Kong. There was an obvious failure of leadership," he stressed.
Deputy Minority leader Danilo Suarez also criticized Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim for giving his statements on national television in a "very relaxed manner".
"Hindi magandang tingnan, dapat ang simulang statement mo masama ang loob mo sa nangyari. Aminin natin na may mismanagement sa paghandle ng incident at medyo mabagabag yung loob ng Hong Kong and China residents," Suarez added.
Palace won’t make the call
But President Benigno Aquino III on dismissed calls for the resignation of his Cabinet secretaries.
“They are, of course, members of the opposition and instead of waiting for the outcome of the investigation to find heads that should roll, he has peremptorily come up with his own decision and that’s to be expected of,” Aquino said.
He noted that the opposition should have waited for the result of the investigation to be conducted by the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation before instigating calls for Cabinet to resign.
“I don’t think there is any need for me to respond to any of his (Lagman) statements especially given the fact that I think it is perhaps at the inopportune time,” the President said.
In a separate briefing, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that this is just part of the blame-game tactic of the opposition.
“Mas maganda na tayo ay magkasama-sama at maki-isa sa pag-dadalamhati sa mga nasawi sa malungkot na incidente na ito,” Lacierda said.
The palace official also believed that a call for resignation is premature at this point pending the investigation of the case.
“With respect to Secretary Robredo, he was there in the area alam niya ang nangyayari. Kausap niya ang mga generals,” he said.
He added that Secretary Carandang will be meeting with the media to discuss protocol in covering hostage-taking incident if ever such crisis will happen again.
NCRPO chief won't resign
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Leocadio Santiago also won’t give in to calls for him to quit post following the bungled operation on Monday’s hostage-taking.
Santiago said he would wait for the results of the ongoing probe before entertaining thoughts of resigning.
“We will have ourselves probed. We will all be subjected to an investigation and we will follow what the results would show,” the NCRPO chief said.
Calls for the resignation of top police officials came after they allegedly mishandled the rescue operation which resulted to the death of foreign nationals.
Santiago, former Special Action Force (SAF) Director, has only taken the top NCRPO post last month from Director Roberto Rosales who was assigned as Director of Integrated Police Operations in the Ilocos region.
Meanwhile, Suarez also said the police forces should have taken a clear shot even before the negotiations started because the hostage-taker has already committed a crime when he held the bus.
Retired police General and incumbent Representative Leopoldo Bataoil (second district, Pangasinan) said that policemen should perform their duties regardless whoever is on the other side.
Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño also said that the hostage crisis fiasco is “a rude wake up call to the government."
He added that it is clear evidence that the Philippine National Police is definitely ill-prepared for crisis situations.
He said: “While the PNP leadership and the Executive admitted it’s mishandling of the crisis, it has not acknowledged that a major blunder was not to have an airtight assault plan that would have considered the paramount safety of the hostages and entailed a media blackout.”
The hostage-taking meanwhile prompted Senator Juan Miguel Zubirito to revive the death penalty for persons who have committed heinous crimes.
Zubiri filed Senate Bill No. 2383 hoping that the number of crime rates would be lowered if severe punishments will be imposed.(Kathrina Alvarez/Jill Beltran/AH/Sunnex)