Police in the Philippines have admitted a catalogue of errors in their handling of a hostage-taking on board a bus in the capital Manila yesterday.
It includes a lack of training, arms and leadership for the assault team and poorly handled negotiations.
One retired police general has described the intervention as “comical”.
When it was over, eight hostages and the hostage taker – a disgruntled sacked police officer – were dead.
There are political repercussions as well. The victims were tourists from Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have been severely critical of the bungled rescue, and the Philippines President.
Benigno Aquino III has been trying to smooth things over with the Chinese ambassador. He has also tried to explain the police action – in particular why the ordeal dragged on for some 11 hours.
“Don’t forget from the get-go practically, he was releasing people,” said the President. “So we were hoping that as the stress wore him down, he’d be more and more amenable to finding an amicable or peaceful solution to the problem. Unfortunately, that changed.”
A commando unit was finally sent to the scene. Normally an assault by such a force should last a matter of minutes but in this case it took nearly an hour before Ronaldo Mendoza was killed and the surviving hostages could be freed.
One of the reasons it took so long was that the commandos’ every move were followed live by millions world wide – and by Mendoza himself who tuned the bus’s TV screens to news channels.