Hijacker's brother waits for trial and retirement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 3:34am

The only policeman on trial in connection with the hijacking of the bus is counting the days to his retirement in six months.

Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza said he continued to face two criminal charges - one as a "co-accomplice" of his hostage-taker brother Rolando, the other for illegal possession of firearms.

He faces the firearms charge because he was not in uniform when his service pistol was found tucked under his shirt just as he was about to be escorted to talk to his elder brother, who was holding the hostages on the tour bus.

Mendoza is out on a 200,000 peso (HK$35,000) bail but continues to report for night duty at a police district office.

On May 8, five days before the May 13 congressional and local polls, Mendoza staged a hunger strike in front of a bus terminal near his home in Manila.

"I wanted to protest against the fact that mayor Alfredo Lim [who was running for re-election in Manila] was recommended for a month-long suspension [by interior and local government secretary Jesse] Robredo, but he was never served that order," he told the South China Morning Post. Mendoza blames Lim for his predicament. He claims Lim used him as a scapegoat.

During the hostage drama, Mendoza had loudly resisted Lim's order to arrest him. Unfortunately, a television set in the bus enabled Rolando to see his brother being arrested. This triggered Rolando's killing spree.

Mendoza also said his hunger strike was "to protest against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of [Emilio] Gonzalez as deputy ombudsman despite the wrong he did to my brother".

Rolando had accused Gonzalez of trying to extort money from him in exchange for reversing a ruling sacking him. Mendoza's hunger strike lasted three days. "The district director had called me and told me that if I did not report for duty, he would declare me [absent without leave]."

"I hope I can approach Mayor Erap [Joseph Estrada] to help me in my case," he said.

He has filed a "demurrer to evidence" in court, claiming the charges against him are baseless.



Mayor of Manila Alfredo Lim

Known as Dirty Harry from his days as a law enforcer, he failed in his bid to be re-elected mayor of Manila this May. The winner was ex-president Joseph Estrada, who said that the late interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo had quietly recommended Lim's suspension for one month for leaving his post during the crisis and mishandling the arrest of senior police officer Gregorio Mendoza, brother of bus hijacker Rolando Mendoza. Robredo - who was on the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that examined the hostage crisis - died in a plane crash last year and Lim's sanction was never imposed. The presidential palace downgraded the IIRC recommendation for Lim, now 83, to face criminal charges to "simple neglect and misconduct in office".

Vice-Mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso

The former actor famed for playing the hunk in romantic movies abandoned Lim during the May elections to be Estrada's running mate and won. The IIRC had recommended light sanctions against Moreno, 42, for "dereliction of duty". He was at a hotel café when the shooting began. Again, the presidential palace ignored the IIRC's advice.

Manila Police Chief Rodolfo Magtibay

He took responsibility for the fiasco and was sacked two days later. He is now retired. Magtibay disregarded President Benigno Aquino's order to use the police Special Action Force. He opted to use Manila's under-equipped and ill-trained Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) Team.

Police Special Action Force Chief Leocadio Santiago Jr

Santiago was suspended for 11 days for "less grave neglect of duty" in March 2011 over the botched rescue. He was then quietly promoted to national police director for operations, but has since been fired over the purchase of two second-hand helicopters. Santiago had failed to step in with the Special Action Force and countermand Magtibay's decision to use Manila's SWAT team.

Philippine National Police Director-General Jesus Versoza

In July this year, Versoza became a fugitive from justice when he failed to appear in court on graft charges over the same helicopter deal. During the hostage crisis, Versoza left Manila. The palace said he was blameless, apparently part of a deal for him to take early retirement.

Police Superintendent Orlando Yebra, chief hostage negotiator

The highly popular Yebra was elected president of the board of trustees of the Philippine National Police Academy Alumni Association this year. He continues to be active in his field and has written a book: Talk to Me: A Hostage Negotiator's Diary. He faced charges of "serious neglect of duty, serious irregularity in the performance of duty, and gross incompetence". The outcome of the case is unknown.

Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual III, SWAT team leader

Pascual was promoted to superintendent and now heads a police station in charge of securing Manila's university belt. The presidential palace had ordered he be charged for "gross incompetence".

Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III

The man who was blamed for failing to act on the hostage-taker's appeal for nine months - prompting Mendoza to hijack the bus - was dismissed but ordered reinstated by the Supreme Court on September 4, 2012. He was also awarded back pay. The 50-page court decision stated that "while the evidence may show some amount of wrongdoing on the part of the petitioner, the court seriously doubts the correctness of the (Office of the President's) conclusion that the imputed acts amount to gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct". He has, however, not resumed his post to date.