MANILA, Philippines – Almost 4 years since the incident, President Benigno Aquino III admitted he still has regrets over the 2010 bus hostage crisis in Manila that led to the death of 8 Hong Kong tourists.
In an interview with TV5 on Wednesday, August 13, Aquino disclosed he had wanted to speak to the hostage taker. He also said he was given wrong information while the rescue operations were ongoing. (READ: HK apology? No way, says Aquino)
“Iniisip ko nga, ako na ang makipag-usap dito kay [dismissed police officer and hostage taker] Captain [Reynaldo] Mendoza na, ‘Puwede bang ako na ang nangangako sa ’yo maresolbahan ‘yung isyu mo? Halika, bumaba ka na dito,’” Aquino said.
The August 23, 2010 hostage crisis was Aquino’s first major challenge as president.
“In this particular case, parang bago pa ako sa trabaho, mga roughly mga isang buwan. Nakinig naman ako na marami akong idadamay kung ako ang pupunta doon at makipag-usap doon kay Captain Mendoza kaya nagpaawat ako,” Aquino said.
(I was new to the job, just roughly a month, and I listened when I was told I would involve a lot of people if I myself went there and talked to Captain Mendoza. So I listened and did not go).
Aquino said he had originally asked the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) chief to call the shots. But there was a change in command and instead of the NCRPO head, the district director of the Manila Police District took over – even if he was not as experienced.
The President also recalled being advised to wear out Mendoza “but the bus suddenly moved and Captain Mendoza became really violent."
Hong Kong had been infuriated by the Philippines' response to the incident in August 2010, in which a former local police officer hijacked a Manila tour bus in protest of his relief from the service.
Eight people from Hong Kong were killed and 7 wounded in a bungled rescue effort by Philippine security forces.
Hong Kong issued a black travel warning to the Philippines, advising residents against non-essential travel to the country.