Robredo urged to quit over 'hostage fiasco'

By Leilani Chavez,

Posted at Aug 25 2010 04:26 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2010 12:36 AM

DILG chief says he's not at fault

MANILA, Philippines - House minority leader Edcel Lagman challenged 3 Cabinet officials to resign and take responsibility for the bloody hostage drama that left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead in one of Manila’s landmarks.

Lagman said Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang and Presidential Communications Group Secretary Herminio Coloma should resign from their posts.

“Neither a post-mortem 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 said.

“Palpable incompetence and culpable indifference must not be condoned in order that bungling and inept hostage crisis operations will not be repeated and to assure foreign governments that ineffectual and errant performance of government officials will not be tolerated,” he added.

According to the lawmaker, Robredo “exercises jurisdiction” over the Philippine National Police (PNP) whose team “bungled” the negotiations.

He added that since concerned police officials have admitted failures and major defects in handling the crisis situation, the command responsibility is left with Robredo, who “failed to take full control of the situation and did not immediately respond to the scene of the crisis”
Lagman stressed that Carandang and Coloma failed to “rein” the media from broadcasting live, which allowed the hostage-taker to monitor police movements through the bus television.

“Crisis protocol for media covering hostage-taking incidents has long been established internationally so that the safety of the hostages is not compromised and official planning and execution not exposed,” he said. “Both Carandang and Coloma failed to enforce this protocol on the media which covered live the crisis situation. In fact, Carandang even defended media’s improvident live coverage.”

Lagman also added that the 2 did not even go to Quirino Grandstand where the hostage incident took place.

The lawmaker also challenged President Benigno Aquino III to “fire” the 3 officials for alleged “palpable incompetence” and “culpable indifference.”

On Monday, disgruntled ex-police officer Rolando Mendoza held hostage tourists from Hong Kong.

The 11-hour incident, aired live by major  television channels around the world, was labeled “disappointing” by Hong Kong Executive Donald Tsang and received the ire of many people in Hong Kong.

Robredo: Not fully responsible

Speaking to radio DZMM on Wednesday, Robredo said he would not resign from his post since he is not responsible for the incident.

“Kung ako po yung may kasalanan, immediately, I would have resigned. I do not like to take full responsiblity for it but I am responsible as well. Our (DILG) authority over the incident is not very full, ang aming koneksyon medyo malayo-layo,” Robredo said.

“Sa palagay ko po, sa bagay na ito, i-address natin yung pagkukulang para magka-ayos ng solusyon. It might be too much to over-extend ko ang aking sarili. Hindi naman sa iniiwasan natin ang responsibilidad but my connection is not clear at this point in time. As I said, if that [resignation] is something that I need to do, I will do it,” he added.

Robredo said the incident started out as a police matter and was under the responsibility of Manila Police Director (MPD) Gen. Rodolfo Magtibay, who directly managed the operation.

However, Robredo refrained from pointing fingers, and instead opted to let the investigation take its course.

“Ang puntong yan ay tama but it should be a matter decided by the person concerned. As I have said, kung ako lang po, I would not be here any minute longer,” he said.

Continuing investigation

Robredo said the DILG is collating available information and waiting for reports from the Scene of the Crime Operatives. The investigation will be released in 2 weeks.

The investigation will narrate the incidents inside the bus, the assaults made, and the police actions that critics deemed questionable.

The report will try to answer common questions on why the hostage-taker’s brother was captured by authorities during the incident, and why it took long for the police to respond after throwing tear gas inside the bus, Robredo said.

“Kung anong mangyayari sa investigation, ire-report. Tinatanggap po natin ang mga pagkukulang sa pangyayaring iyon. Hinahanapan na nating 'yung pagkukulang,” he said.

Despite the financial constraints, Robredo said they are trying to provide the equipment and the training needed by the police force in addressing hostage incidents. - With DZMM