Senate suspends inquiry into Quirino Grandstand siege
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has suspended its inquiry into the Aug. 23 hostage crisis that ended in the death of eight Chinese tourists and their captor.
However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Malacañang’s gag order does not cover Congress.
The joint hearings of the committee on public order and illegal drugs and the committee on justice and human rights were stopped as a gesture of courtesy to the executive, he added.
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano expressed hope that President Aquino’s gag order is not another version of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Executive Order 464 barring government officials from attending Senate inquiries.
“I hope it is not a self-imposed version,” he said.
“The first step in aid of legislation is to know the facts. And when should you get the facts?” he said.
Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. said the Department of Justice must explain the reason for the gag order.
“We are conducting the Senate investigation in aid of legislation,” he said.
“How could we propose an effective legislative measure if our resource persons are instructed not to divulge anything that they know about the incident.”
Revilla said the Senate may stop its probe but the results should be made public.
“We don’t want it to appear that we are trying to cover up something,” he said.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan said the inquiry will be suspended until the final results of the police and Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations are out.
“We have not changed our list of resource persons,” he said.
“We will call but the schedule is indefinitely postponed until the final report is in so that we will not lose our concentration and focus being undertaken in a parallel capacity by DOJ, PNP, and DILG.”
It was the consensus of senators to suspend the inquiry, Honasan said.
Sotto: We should not pay compensation
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III does not favor paying compensation to the families of eight Chinese tourists killed in last week’s hostage crisis in Manila.
“Did the Chinese government pay compensation to the Filipino family who were killed in Tiananmen Square?” he asked.
Sotto said the US government did not also compensate Filipino soldiers killed in rescuing foreigners kidnapped from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan some years ago.
“Did the US government compensate the more than 30 soldiers killed in rescuing the Burnham couple?” he asked.
Enrile said he wants to study the recommendation before issuing a statement.
“I’m not prepared to say yes or no,” he said.
“I will study it first. I am not saying if it’s possible, impossible, probable, or improbable.”
Enrile said the Philippines received compensation from Japan after World War II.
“(The) Japanese gave us war reparations,” he said. “The Americans paid us war damage.”
However, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said the government should give some financial help to the victims’ families.
Compensation should come with justice, according to Revilla.
NBI to question Lim, Isko
The National Bureau of Investigation will question Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and the Manila policemen that handled the Aug. 23 hostage crisis.
Lim said he is ready to face any investigating body.
“All I’ll tell them is the truth,” he said in Filipino. “I will tell them that I did not order the arrest of SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza.”
Gregorio’s arrest reportedly caused hostage taker Rolando Mendoza to go berserk and kill eight Chinese hostages inside a tourist bus parked in front of the Quirino Grandstand last week.
Lim, a former Manila police chief and NBI director, denied the Senate testimony of former Manila police director Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay that he had ordered Gregorio handcuffed for impeding the hostage negotiations.
11 SWAT members give statement to NBI
Eleven members of the Manila police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) gave statements to the NBI yesterday on the Aug. 23 hostage crisis at Rizal Park in Manila.
The SWAT members were identified through their nameplates as Inspector Navales, team leader; Senior Police Office 4 Antonio; Senior Police Officer 3 Gameng; Senior Police Officers 2 Baldomar, Luna, Mangsal and Espinosa; Police Officer 2 Sabete; Police Officer 1 Terrado; and a certain Sambrano.
NBI officials prevented reporters from interviewing or taking photographs of the SWAT members.
NBI officials refused to give any statement based on the gag order of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The SWAT members said they are ready to divulge who ordered the arrest of Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of the hostage taker.
Meanwhile, the NBI has located Rolando Mendoza’s woman companion who allegedly drove him to Fort Santiago minutes before he commandeered a tourist bus carrying the Chinese tourists.
She has been taken to NBI headquarters in Manila for investigation, but has denied the allegations.
The NBI has refused to identify her pending investigation. – Christina Mendez, Sandy Araneta