4 in Manila Swat team suspended, police chief Rodolfo Magtibay takes leave

Updated: 26 Aug 2010
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Relatives weep as they lay wreaths on a coffin of a Hong Kong tourist who was killed in the hostage stand-off in the Philippines. Bodies of the slain victims arrived at Hong Kong airport yesterday. AP



Police involved in the handling of the hostage crisis in Manila on Monday failed to enforce guidelines on how they should deal with members of the media during crisis situations, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

A police manual issued in 2006 laid down basic rules including asking the media for "limited live telecast" and limited close-ups of police positions while the situation was going on.

Hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza, a former policeman, was able to monitor events outside the bus on a television inside the bus. Experts said this was one of the key mistakes the authorities made in dealing with the situation.

The Philippines yesterday suspended four police officers from the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team who led the group that attempted to storm the bus. The policeman in charge of the hostage rescue, Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, also offered to take a leave of absence, saying he assumed responsibility for the police assault.

The suspensions came on a national day of mourning for the eight victims of Monday's ordeal. President Benigno Aquino ordered flags at all government offices to fly at half-mast, but anger both in the Philippines and Hong Kong largely overshadowed the gesture.

Police have admitted to mistakes in handling the 12-hour hostage drama. These included poor negotiating tactics with the hijacker and inadequate equipment for the Swat team and bad crowd control.

Blunders in the hostage crisis are just the latest black mark for the police force, which has long been hounded by accusations of torture, murder, corruption and ineptitude.

Mr Aquino on Tuesday ordered a government inquiry into the hostage-taking, on top of the internal police probe. But he continued to face a tirade of criticism, particularly via his official Facebook page.

"Shame on you and your government," wrote Hong Kong resident Elfis Lee. "Your incompetence in leading your untrained stupid police force caused such a tragedy."

Though Mr Aquino accepted the emotional outbursts, he censored his Facebook page to ban "below the belt attacks". A charter flight carrying the bodies of the victims returned to Hong Kong yesterday.


SOURCE: todayonline


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