8 tourists dead and gunman killed in messy bus hijacking

By John Grafilo

Manila (dpa) – Philippine radio listeners were shocked as a burst

of gunfire rang out, while screams and cries reverberated on the


After a few seconds of dead air, listeners then heard the

hysterical voice of sacked senior police inspector Rolando del

Rosario Mendoza making an chilling admission.

“I just shot two hostages and I will continue shooting the rest if

they do not stop harassing my brother,” he shouted after seeing on

live television that authorities were dragging his brother into a

police car.

The line went dead and that was the last words radio listeners

heard from Mendoza. He was eventually killed by fellow police

officers in an hour-long assault that also left eight Hong Kong

tourists dead.

The drama – played out live on TV across the Philippines and on

many 24-hour news channels across the world – began Monday morning

when Mendoza seized a tourist bus carrying 20 Chinese tourists and a

travel guide from Hong Kong. Four Filipinos working in the tour bus

were also taken hostage.

Authorities were initially optimistic that the crisis would end

peacefully, especially since Mendoza was “courteous” and freed nine

of the hostages, including three children.

Mendoza demanded authorities to review the extortion and

harassment case against him that led to his dismissal from the

service in February 2009.

The charges stemmed from the complaint of a chef of a hotel in

Manila that Mendoza and his men extorted around 500 dollars from him

when he was apprehended in 2008 for illegal parking. The victim also

accused the officer of forcing him to swallow a sachet of illegal


Prior to the complaint, the 55-year-old police officer had

received 17 awards and citations during his career that started in

1981. He would have retired next January had he not been sacked.

Mendoza came from a family of police officers, including his

father, one brother and one of his two sons.

“Don’t do anything yet, give me time to tell them our grievances,”

his police brother Gregorio told him over the phone earlier in the


But Gregorio’s appeal fell on deaf ears.

Mendoza rejected a letter from the ombudsman who promised to look

into an appeal he filed and insisted that he be reinstated to his


Alberto Lubang, the Filipino driver who escaped from the bus

during the first volley of gunfire from Mendoza’s assault rifle, told

police that the hostage-taker herded the hostages to a corner of the

bus and fired at them.

“All the hostages were killed,” Lubang told the police officers

who anxiously escorted him to safety.

Within minutes, a team of police officers moved into one side of

the tourist bus and began smashing its glass windows with

sledgehammers but the windows withstood the first assault.

Another team of police officers attempted to break the glass in

the door of the bus, but the axe fell inside the door.

After several tries, police officers were able to crack the glass

windows but they could not enter the bus because Mendoza still fired


Police lobbed tear gas inside the bus and from the thick smoke a

sniper saw Mendoza move toward the front of the bus – and gunshots

were fired.

After the burst of gunfire, the lifeless body of Mendoza hung

slumped on the bus door and the police immediately moved inside the

bus to rescue the hostages.

Filipinos, who were glued to television and radio throughout the

more than 10-hour hostage drama, were stunned and shocked by bloody

end and the sloppy police assault.

“It is a sad day for the country” said Tourism Secretary Alberto

Lim.”It’s a black mark on our image to the world. We are really very

very sorry to the people of Hong Kong.”