DAVAO City Mayor Sara Duterte ordered the signatory organizations of Davao City Oplan Laban Terrorismo (DCOLT) to meet as a corresponding action to the hostage-taking incident in Manila.
Public Safety Command Center (PSCC) commander, Ret. Col. Verner Monsanto, said on Thursday Duterte gave orders before she left for Manila Tuesday.
"After the turnover ceremony of the Task Force, the mayor gave specific instruction for the group to meet and talk about it so we would see our weaknesses and where we can reinforce. Basically, a hostage situation is a police situation but the other units would be present like Task Force Davao. In an event like that, they would immediately be there to support," Monsanto said in an interview in his office.
"We had a conference with stakeholders of (DCOLT) at the (PSCC) 2 p.m. especially police and military. In fact, we got the lessons we learned from Manila and then we saw that we need to expand our capability," said Monsanto, who also heads the city's emergency response Central 911.
Monsanto said DCOLT is currently gearing toward expanding it's capability to add specific situations among its priorities.
"Ang sa atin kasi, ang DCOLT, we focus on what the stakeholders would do in the event of a bombing and terrorist activities. We intend to expand this to other terrorist activities like a hostage taking. We'll just have to prepare other plans for specific threats," Monsanto said.
Mayor as crisis manager
Monsanto said the DCOLT organizations distributed specific responsibilities among themselves and noted that the city mayor is considered the overall crisis manager.
"Napagusapan kung sino yung unit na maghahandle ng crowd control, unit that would help the negotiator, sino may hawak sa counter action, handle sa hostage taker and hostage victims after an incident, kinsa gyud ang atong decision maker (who would really be our decision maker). We will be conducting another conference to refine these and then we will present this to the Mayor," Monsanto said.
Monsanto said the set-up of command during a hostage crisis or any major threat to security is done in three levels. On the ground level is for tactical, second for operational decisions, and on the top is the main crisis manager, the highest official in the area.
"On the ground 'yung tactical operations that would be based on SOPs (standard operating procedures) and protocol under the decisions of the ground manager or itong mga pulis with some assistance. There are situations when the question is beyond operational level sa taas na ang decision. The mayor is really the crisis manager and policy would be translated to operation down to tactical sa ground," Monsanto said.
Monsanto said DCOLT is set to pass their recommendations for approval to the City Mayor next week.
Monsanto said DCOLT is looking at involving the academe and the religious sector in the negotiation, in the event of a hostage crisis.
"Kung sino ang magiging negotiator is not yet final. First, we are trying to find out who among the police is trained as negotiator. Hindi man pwedeng kahit sino lang ang ilagay diyan. Actually tinitingnan rin natin, napag-usapan, na pwedeng civilians can be trained to become a negotiator, not necessarily a politician because it might aggravate the situation.
"Pwede as suggested maging negotiator ang psychiatrist, the academe, religious leaders, and other civilians because we know that if we only give training to the police and the military there is always the possibility na ma-transfer sila unlike if they are civilians who are residing here," Monsanto said.
Monsanto added there should be "a clear ground commander" during a hostage situation. "It's also a protocol na cordoned gyud ang area nga dili makasulod ang mga civilian and the media dali dali (immediately) after the incident," he said.
"Sa part sa medical response, as far as Central 911 concerned, nan diyan na agad yan dapat. Dili dapat muabot lang ang ambulansya pag nahuman na. Nakapundo na dapat na sila during the time na naay nagkahitabo ug musulod dayon if ever naay nahitabo (The ambulance should not come only after the incident. It should be there during the time of the incident on standby and come in if needed)," Monsanto said.
Monsanto said the city's Central 911 has equipment which can be used in emergency situations but also said a hostage taking should not resort first to the use of equipments but on a fast assault.
"Ours are mechanical breaching equipment. Ibig sabihin if we would use this we would not be as swift as we want to be because when we do assault it should be fast, swift and strong. These are primarily rescue equipment which can be of help in emergency situation but would not be swift ang action. It will take time. Most probably na dapat gamitin is kung nakalapit na ang assault team make to it fast," Monsanto said.
Monsanto preferred not to comment so much on the Manila Police' botched operation and lack of equipment during the hostage situation, but rather said: "Kung ang police natin ang gumawa, alam nila na may breaching equipment tayo dito."
"Di natin malaman yan (kung bakit walang equipment na ginamit), call yan ng ground commander eh. Meron naman siguro, pero siguro call nila is hanggang doon lang. May plano siguro pero hindi angkop sa pangyayari," Monsanto said.
The city's Central 911 is the only one in the country and was taken after the emergency response of the United States. Central 911's response time is 13 minutes for ambulance, 8 minutes for the police, and seven for urban search and rescue and fire auxiliary.
Monsanto also noted that each year the Central 911 receives more calls than previous years which he attributes to the people's awareness and trust. "Mas dumarami talaga each year ang tumatawag which I think is because aware na rin ang tao and kung hindi naman mapagkakatiwalaan ang isang response then hindi naman siguro yan tatakbuhan ng tao," he said.
Monsanto brushed away speculations that there would be assistance coming from the city's law enforcers to Manila.
"Hindi ko alam kung saan yan nanggaling ano but if meron ngang ganyang decision then it would be an honor na our assistance would be of help," Monsanto said.
PRO 11's measures
Meanwhile, Chief Supt. Pedro U. Tango, Police Regional Office 11 director, said he has already ordered the Regional Mobile Group and the Davao City Police Office' Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU) to do an inventory of equipment and training.
"I can say SATU personnel are trained and properly equipped to handle situations like that in Manila," Tango said during Thursday's AFP-PNP press conference at TFD headquarters.
Tango said he has also ordered Sr. Supt Nestor Quinsay, RMG 11 chief, to recall Swat-trained personnel for retraining since most of them have been downloaded to lower mobile groups. "This is to polish what they learn in the past."
Tango lamented though that the regional police does not have the equipment that would measure to international standards.
The regional police director also refused to comment on the adverse side of the recent hostage incident in Manila.
"When Swat personnel were ordered to assault, they did not hesitate despite the lack of equipment. Hindi nila inalintala ang risk they were confronting at that time," he said.
"This makes me even prouder to be a member of the Philippine National Police."
Tango also favors the national government's idea of creating one unit to deal with crisis management to ensure the concentration of funds.
"We are currently self-flagellating. Let's move on from here," Tango added when asked to comment of the barrage of negative comments that the police has been getting due to Monday's hostage incident that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead. (Jade C. Zaldivar/Gigie Arcilla-Agtay)