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MANILA, Philippines – The National Police Commission (Napolcom) has penalized two more police officials involved in the bungled police operation during the Aug. 23, 2010 Luneta hostage crisis that resulted in the tragic death of eight Hong Kong tourists.
The order came after the Office of the President ordered the imposition of the maximum penalty of dismissal from the service of former Manila Police District (MPD) director Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay.
Earlier, the Office of the President said it agrees with the factual findings of the Napolcom which found Magtibay liable for gross incompetence for being remiss in performing his duties as the ground or on-scene commander during the incident at the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park (formerly called Luneta).
The eight victims were on board a tourist bus at Luneta when it was hijacked by Rolando Mendoza, a disgruntled former Manila police officer. Seven other tourists were hurt in the incident.
Napolcom Vice-Chairman and Executive Officer Eduardo Escueta had said that their recommendation on Magtibay was forwarded to the Office of the President for final disposition since he is a presidential appointee.
Escueta said the Napolcom originally meted the medium penalty of one rank demotion on Magtibay after he was found guilty of gross incompetence over his failure to give specific and clear instructions to his men that ended in confusion and lack of coordinative action.
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Escueta said that aside from Magtibay, the Napolcom en banc also found Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Santiago David Pascual III guilty of gross incompetence and meted them the penalty of one rank demotions, which was already implemented with the resolution of their motion for reconsideration last January.
Escueta said the Napolcom ruled that Yebra fell short of his duty as the chief negotiator after he failed to alert his superiors to be ready when Mendoza appeared agitated and angry.
Yebra was also found by the Napolcom to have failed as hostage negotiator and crisis manager when he “lost focus and composure in front of the hostage taker.” The Napolcom added that Yebra’s manhandling of SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza – a brother of the hostage taker – “further inflamed the situation.”
Pascual, meanwhile, the over-all assault team leader of the Manla Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) was found liable by the Napolcom for the disorganized manner of the rescue operations and for his failure to inform the ground commander that the MPD SWAT was not skilled in dealing with the incident in terms of equipment.
The Napolcom said Pascual had failed to make proper coordination and due diligence that could have mitigated the extent of the tragedy.
Escueta said that Yebra and Pascual have filed appeals with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in accordance with Section 1, Rule 10 of Napolcom Memorandum Circular No. 2007-001 which prescribes the uniform rules of procedure before the administrative disciplinary authorities of the PNP.
Meanwhile, Escueta said the Napolcom has also ordered the dismissal from the service of Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of the hostage taker, for serious neglect of duty and grave misconduct.
According to Escueta, Mendoza failed to perform his duty as part of the negotiating panel as he added to the problem when he demanded for the return of his service firearm as a condition for the release of the hostages.
Escueta added that Mendoza was also penalized for carrying his firearm while in civilian attire. He explained that police officers are prohibited to display their service firearms, have guns tucked in their waists or inserted in their waistbands or holsters while in civilian attire.
He said Philippine National Police issuances provide that carrying of service firearms in civilian attire requires the presentation of a proper mission order.
Escueta explained that the decision dismissing Mendoza from the police service would become executory with the resolution of his pending motion for reconsideration with the Napolcom en banc.