What may surprise people in this hostage situation is that the lone gunman armed with an M16 assault rifle is a former Police officer who was also recognised as one of the top 10 police officers in the country back in 1986 but he was discharged in 2008 for his alleged involvement in drug-related crimes and extortion, according to police.
Disgruntled he has now taken tourists as hostage demanding he is reinstated in his previous role.
There were initially at least16 passengers on the bus and over time some have been released including the bus driver in the last 10 minutes watched live on television here.
In a live radio link the ex police officer said “I can see a lot of SWAT (special weapons and tactics police) coming in. I know they will kill me. They should all leave because anytime I will do the same here,”
These were the first comments from the former senior police inspector Rolando Mendoza since he took the busload of tourists mainly from Hong Kong, China on Monday morning.
During the day the gunman released nine of the buses passengers, he initially boarded the bus in Manila’s historical tourist district in the morning.
Around 5.20pm a gunshot was heard from inside the bus but currently there has been nothing reported of injuries or anyone being killed.
Although the vehicle has been surrounded by commandos the Police are working towards a safe conclusion prioritising safety of the passengers. Presidential Communications Operations Head, Secretary Herminio Coloma said “The hostage taking need not alarm the international community because it is an isolated incident”. Following with “We just need to view this in perspective as an isolated incident and does not reflect the real situation of our country today,”
Bits of paper were stuck to the glass door of the bus the first one reading “Big deal will start after 3.00 pm (0700 GMT) today,” When the deadline expired (6 hours into the hostage taking) with no new developments a new sign was posted saying “media now”.
Another sign later said “Big mistake for big wrong decision” which seems to be in reference to being fired.
Throughout the day seven tourists including three children an elderly man and two Filipinos were released at various times. Very little has been to said to why they were released but assumptions are no doubt that negotiations have been working to secure their removal from the bus. Food has also been allowed onto the bus for the passengers from a nearby fast food restaurant.
The tourists on the bus varied in age from four to seventy two and were scheduled to leave the Philippines returning to Hong Kong late on Monday.
The bus is parked in front of a grandstand at Rizal Park, a popular tourist destination and a few streets away from Police headquarters. The gunman’s brother (who is also a Police officer) was also called to come and help with the negotiations.
The bus highjack came within hours of a South Korean being killed at a seperate attack on a vehicle by gunmen elsewhere in the capital. Although the incidents are not related its more common than people realise.