Cops who fired guns in bungled hostage drama face dismissal
- Non Alquitran and Nikko Dizon () - June 3, 2002 - 12:00am
For being such poor shots, some Pasay City policemen are bound to lose their jobs.

Policemen who inadvertently hit a four-year-old boy in last Friday’s pre-dawn hostage drama in Pasay City might face summary dismissal, Metro Manila police chief Deputy Director General Edgar Aglipay said yesterday.

This developed as Southern Police District (SPD) director Chief Superintendent Jose Gutierrez Jr. revealed that tests conducted on the remains of hostage taker Diomedes Talbo, 38, showed he was positive for shabu.

Aglipay said investigation being conducted by Senior Superintendent Romulo Adduru of the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) would focus on who fired the shots that hit the young hostage Dexter Balala.

Autopsy findings showed that the boy sustained four bullet wounds in the extremities and one in the chest.

"The IAS report would be used as basis for possible summary dismissal proceedings against Pasay City policemen who fired the fatal shots," Aglipay said.

As of yesterday, some 20 policemen, among them Pasay City police chief Superintendent Eduardo de la Cerna, underwent paraffin tests to determine who among them fired their guns.

SPD ballistic team head Senior Inspector Sancho Andres also said 25 firearms have been submitted to his office by the policemen involved in the rescue attempt.

The guns included nine Armalite rifles, 15 semi-automatic 9-mm. pistols and a caliber .45 automatic.

Besieged by widespread public criticism, Aglipay immediately sacked De la Cerna even as he ordered a full-blown investigation of the incident with the view of filing criminal and administrative charges against the policemen involved in the bungled rescue operation.

Police probers said earlier that the bullet hole in the chest was presumably the major reason for the young boy’s death, with the 13 stab wounds dealt by the hostage-taker as contributory factor.

Police investigators were not ruling out the possibility that security guards of the Philtranco Bus Co. on EDSA in Malibay, Pasay City fired the shots that hit Balala.

This possibility developed after the police probers recovered from the scene spent shotgun shells, indicating that the guards could have joined the fracas that marked the end of the two-hour real-life hostage drama.

While Adduru is working on the administrative aspect of the case, the SPD will handle the criminal angle.

Aglipay said Gutierrez would file anytime today charges of homicide through reckless imprudence against 10 Pasay City policemen who formed the first line of offense against Talbo, a farmer from San Mateo town in Isabela.

Adduru was also tasked to determine lapses committed by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team that responded to the scene, as well as submit recommendations for possible retraining of all police forces nationwide in a bid to improve their proficiency in handling emergency situations such as hostage-taking.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina directed Aglipay to look into the possibility of conducting refresher courses for the SWAT on handling hostage crisis and other emergency situations.

"Based on the video footage, the killing of the hostage-taker and the boy could have been prevented if our (police) officers had acted accordingly and with efficiency," Lina stressed.

With policemen and kibitzers only a spitting distance away from Talbo, the hostage-taker stabbed his young victim 13 times in the back and neck before the police opened fire.

Police said they could not shoot Talbo because journalists stood in their line of fire.

Irate bystanders later joined the melee and stomped on the fallen and bloodied body of Talbo.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez said a check with the Isabela police revealed that Talbo had been on the drug watch list since 1999.

He also said Talbo was distraught by reports that one of his daughters who resides in Mindanao had been molested by a relative.

Earlier reports had it that he was on his way to Mindanao to fetch his children. -With Christina Mendez

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