By Aaron Recuenco
Almost a decade after the controversial Luneta hostage crisis, the Philippine National Police (PNP) appeared to be still learning the ropes on handling hostage crises.
On Monday during the course of the entire hostage crisis, netizens observed how almost everyone was shooting photos and videos near the mall in Greenhills, San Juan where the incident occurred.
No less than PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa himself observed that there were factors that appeared to have not been addressed properly, particularly in the aspect of crowd control.
Some of the kibitzers were even shooting videos for Facebook Live.
“Actually, there were a lot of comments like crowd control. These are protocols which the PNP should have a very closer look,” Gamboa said.
He explained that if a police general was criticized for grabbing the cellular phone of a television reporter during the Black Nazarene procession last January, then the PNP should also be very careful in allowing netizens to just shoot photos and videos in areas which are supposed to be cordoned off.
“We want to be very careful and we will sit down and evaluate what happened there,” Gamboa said.
The Luneta hostage crisis in 2010 where some foreign tourists were killed by the hostage-taker became an issue that is still being hurled against then-president Noynoy Aquino.
There were criticisms on how the negotiations were handled, including an alleged opportunity that was not taken advantage of by the police that would have prevented the killings.
Aside from crowd control, Gamboa also cited the criticisms on why security guard and hostage-taker Alchie Paray was allowed to hold a press conference.
But Gamboa defended the decision, saying that it was part of the strategy of the designated negotiator, Col. Orlando Yebra, who also happened to be the lead negotiator in the Luneta hostage crisis.
“The reason behind it is tactical. You must understand also that in some aspects of some police operations, just like in the military, we cannot divulge everything,” Gamboa said.
Police said the decision to allow Paray to talk to the media somehow allowed Yebra to win the hostage-taker’s trust and confidence. By yielding to some of Paray’s demands, Yebra and San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora were able to convince the hostage-taker to eventually surrender.
Gamboa said everything that transpired during the hostage crisis would be discussed and be used as reference to improve the handling of similar situations in the future.