A Filipino angry at being fired from the police force was holding hostage 15 Hong Kong tourists and their driver on a bus in downtown Manila on Monday.
The gunman, identified as Rolando Mendoza and armed with an automatic rifle, had said, via a handwritten note, that a “big deal” would happen after 7am GMT, but the deadline passed without incident.
A ninth hostage, a Filipino, has since been released, and negotiations continued as the stand-off stretched to almost eight hours and rain began to fall.
Earlier, six Hong Kong nationals and two Filipinos, mainly women and children, had been released.
Mendoza, armed with an M-16 rifle and small arms, had stopped the bus, which had 25 people on board, across a wide road through Manila’s biggest park.
He asked for food for those remaining on the bus, which was delivered, and fuel to keep the air-conditioning going during the heat.
Negotiators stood just outside the bus, talking into the driver’s window. The curtains on the bus were drawn, but occasionally tourists, who were on the last day of their trip, pulled them back to peer outside.
Police spokesperson Erwin Margarejo said he had expected the hostages to be released by the 3pm deadline and said Mendoza was cooperating. He said the police had no time limit on negotiations and the use of force would be a last resort.
Police snipers had taken up positions around the scene.
Mendoza’s brother, Gregorio, told a local TV station that his brother was upset by his dismissal from the force. Local media said he had been sacked for reasons including extortion.
“His problem was he was unjustly removed from service. There was no due process, no hearing, no complaint,” Gregorio said.
Stuck to the bus door was a piece of paper with the handwritten message: “BIG MISTAKE TO CORRECT A BIG WRONG DECISION”. A larger piece of paper on the front windshield was headed “RELEASE FINAL DECISION” and then what appeared to be details of his case.
The road was cordoned off, with the bus isolated inside the park. Several ambulances and a fire engine were on standby.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said it wanted police to “take all the necessary measures to secure the release and to protect the security and safety of our nationals”.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee told reporters authorities were very concerned about the incident. Two officials were being sent to Manila and a hotline was being set up in Hong Kong for families of the hostages. – Reuters