Cellphone video shows hostages' ordeal

MANILA, Philippines - A cell phone video of MNLF hostages during the stand-off in Zamboanga City has surfaced.
The video is consistent with the account of 2 hostages earlier interviewed by Rappler’s Patricia Evangelista in the short documentary “Sta. Catalina.”
Patricia files this report.

Jeorge Ando, his girlfriend Michelle Candido and their toddler son Eithan were on their fifth day since being held hostage by the Moro National Liberation Front. This video acquired by Rappler shows hostages forced into the center of Lustre St by the MNLF. Both Ando and Candido can be seen on the ground, clutching their son Eithan.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: AFP forces at the time were at the corner of Lustre St and Sta. Catalina Road then we saw that there was someone taking a video standing up when everyone already went to prone position.

Armed Forces Spokesperson Lt Col Ramon Zagala confirms the video was shot Friday, September 13, shortly before the military shifted tactics from containment to calibrated response.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: The mere word calibrated, we want it to be safe in terms of making sure that none of the hostages will be hurt.

JEORGE ANDO, HOSTAGE: Pag labas namin doon sa kanto, binabakbakan kagad ng military.

MICHELLE CANDIDO, HOSTAGE: Lahat na po, baril, mortar, bomba, pinapaputok sa amin. Wala na po ata silang pakialam kung civilian ang natatamaan nila.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: There were some civilians who were possibly harmed because they were placed in the backblast portion of the 90RR that was fired by the MNLF Misuari faction.

Zagala denies any sort of assault directed at the hostages, but the hostages’ narrative contradict it.

JEORGE ANDO, HOSTAGE: Nasa gitna ng daan lang ho kami.

MICHELLE CANDIDO, HOSTAGE: Tapos bigla na lang po may pumasok tatlong tangke ng military sa harap namin. Sumigaw kami ng ceasefire, ceasefire. Tapos yung tangke nila nagpaputok sa side namin, natamaan po yung isang matanda doon. Lumabas po yung bituka. Natamaan rin yung isa, parang gripo yung dugo.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: They were never the target of our operation. Our mission was to rescue them. Our target were the enemies… and the troops we used were the very best. Well trained. If they were hurt, definitely not because of the armed forces.

Zagala believes that the armed forces were successful in their goal to protect hostages.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: None of those in the video were killed.

Included in the video is 2-year-old Eithan.

JEORGE ANDO, HOSTAGE: Yung time na grabe na yung crossfire, nakita ko yung manhole. Siguro yun pinaka-safe na taguan.

MICHELLE CANDIDO, HOSTAGE: Yun na po, pumasok kami sa imburnal. Tapos may biglang pumutok na malakas.

A bullet smashed through the concrete cover and found its way into Eithan's brain.

MICHELLE CANDIDO, HOSTAGE: Tumama muna sa kamay ko, first, tapos dun sa kanya. Lumalabas lahat ng dugo sa hati sa ulo niya.

Eithan Ando died one day later.
Zagala says no deaths among hostages occurred after the calibrated response.

RAMON ZAGALA, AFP SPOKESPERSON: We were given the mission, two things to do. The first to rescue the hostages. Second to neutralize the enemy. We were able to rescue all 195 hostages and we were able to neutralize over 500 MNLF Misuari faction. That alone is a feat worthy of emulation of any armed forces of the world and that I can say we were very successful.

Patricia Evangelista, Rappler, Manila.

- Rappler.com