PNP chief, San Juan mayor defend ‘tactical reason’ behind hostage taker’s presser

Robie de Guzman   •   March 3, 2020   •   790

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa on Tuesday defended the move of authorities to allow the hostage-taker to speak to the media during the hostage-taking situation inside Greenhills Mall in San Juan City on Monday.

Gamboa said there was a “tactical reason” behind their decision and called on critics to respect it.

“The reason behind there is tactical. Alam ninyo probably very open tayo, you must understand in some aspect of police operation, we cannot divulge everything,” he said in a press briefing at Camp Crame.

The hostage-taker, a disgruntled former security guard of the mall, captured dozens of people at gun point when he forced his way into the mall.

After hours of negotiations with authorities, he released his hostages in exchange for a chance to speak to reporters without handcuffs to air his grievances for almost 20 minutes. He was also toting a pistol on his waist while talking to the media.

During his press conference, he complained about the irregularities in the mall management and his dismissal from the job without due process.

He was later arrested after five cops tackled him to the ground.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) criticized the authorities’ move to give air time to the hostage taker while still armed.

“Una, medyo hindi tayo convinced doon sa sinasabi nga ng PNP, number one doon sa itong pag-allow na magpresscon yung hostage taker na hindi natin alam kung ano yung dala-dala niya. Hindi alam ng public na nandoon kung ano yung gamit na nasa katawan niya,” Kath Cortez, a member of NUJP national board of directorate, told UNTV News in a phone interview.

According to San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, who was also present during the negotiations, allowing the hostage taker to have a presser was part of the agreement to coax him to set his captives free.

Zamora also said that he assured the hostage-taker’s safety if he surrenders.

“Marami kasing mga discussions kanina, maraming mga points of negotiation, pero sabi ko I will assure him in fact nung kausap ko na siya sa telepono ay kumalma na siya ang gusto niya lang talaga makalabas ng ligtas,” he said.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Major General Debold Sinas, for his part, said granting the hostage-taker’s demand for a time with media was a judgment call they made to prevent the escalation of the crisis.

Sinas said the mall management’s alleged poor treatment of him and his fellow security guards prompted him to plan the hostage taking, and airing his grievances is one way to have an early and peaceful resolution to the situation.

The NCRPO chief likewise said snipers were also on standby to take out the hostage taker should he pull out the gun that authorities knew was tucked on his waist.

It’s judgement call between one person versus 40. Could you just imagine if we keep on insisting na huwag dalhin ‘yon, hindi siya lalabas. So, it’s a judgement call. I’m confident that my snipers could take, para sa kaniya, head shot,” he said.

Amid the criticism, authorities said that what is important is the crisis was resolved and all hostages were safe.

They also apologized for any lapses during the hostage-taking situation.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the PNP handled the situation well as the primary consideration was the safety of all hostages.

“We will conduct an after-incident review and assess the actions of the involved PNP units to find out how their performance could be further improved,” he told reporters on Tuesday. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Dante Amento and Asher Cadapan Jr.)

2 areas in San Juan City under lockdown due to spike of COVID-19 cases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 9, 2020

Two areas in San Juan City are placed under lockdown due to the high number of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

C. Santos Street in Barangay Balong Bato and J. Eustaquio Street in Barangay Proseso are considered critical zones by the local government of San Juan after a total of 13 COVID-19 cases were recorded.

Seven are from C. Santos Street while six are from J. Eustaquio Street. The two areas will be under lockdown from July 7 to July 22.

Based on National Task Force on Covid-19 Memorandum Circular No. 2, “a street shall be categorized as CrZ (Critical Zone) if at least two (2) cluster of cases, composed of either suspect, probable and/or confirmed COVID-19, are present in different houses, buildings or establishments along a specified street.”

The local government has provided assistance to 255 households affected by the lockdown, while police are deployed to monitor lockdown violators.

Meanwhile, San Juan’s Agora Market will remain closed until July 15 after 23 employees and vendors tested positive for COVID-19. The said market is now under disinfection and sanitation procedure.

As of July 8, the San Juan local government recorded a total of 481 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 134 active cases, 300 recoveries, and 47 deaths.

Based on the report, there is a spike in the daily number of new cases from June 27 compared to the recorded cases from June 15 to June 26. –AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Metro Manila ramp up bike lanes as more workers opt for bike-to-work routine

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 3, 2020

Several cities in Metro Manila ramped up their bicycle lanes as more workers opted for bike-to-work routine amid the limited public transportation due to community quarantine.

In San Juan City, yellow markers and bike lane signage were placed along bicycle lanes to guide cyclists. Bollard will also be installed to ensure their safety.

According to San Juan City Mayor Francisco Zamora, they launched their pop-up bicycle on Wednesday (June 3) in celebration of World Bicycle Day.

“Wala siyang polusyon, siya ay nag-oobserve ng physical at social distancing kaya kung mapapansin mo iyong bike lanes natin talagang good for one bike at tsaka one direction lang (There is no pollution, and [it] observes physical and social distancing. You can notice that our bike lanes are only good for one bike and one direction),” he said on Wednesday (June 3).

Taguig City reopened the bike lane along C6 road and installed additional bike lanes along Cayetano Boulevard and Bayani Road. The local government said they will add more bike routes, as well as launch a Bike Lending Program for employees in the city.

Meanwhile, Quezon City aims to extend its 55-kilometer bike lane to 161 kilometers and upgrade its signage and infrastructure for the safety of the cyclists.

As more workers riding their bicycles to work, EDSA Evolution Spokesperson Keisha Mayuga said it would be a big help to install protected bike lanes to prevent unnecessary accidents.

“Importante na markahan iyong bike lanes para aware din ang mga motorists and road users na may bike lanes. And iyong pinakamaganda talaga is for protected bike lanes (It is important for bike lanes to be marked so that motorists and road users will be more aware of bike lanes. And what is even better are protected bike lanes),” she said. AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr.)

San Juan, Valenzuela LGUs want more ECQ time to assess data despite gains vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2020

In an interview on UNTV’s Serbisyong Bayanihan program on Friday, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said he wants more time to assess the data on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure that cases of infection have subsided.

He said that, personally, he wants his city to remain under ECQ for two more weeks despite their improving COVID-19 situation following rigid efforts on mass testing, contact tracing and isolation of positive cases.

Zamora said that aside from establishing quarantine facilities and having their own RT-PCR test machines, they also launched a portal where residents may register if they are experiencing symptoms as part of their intensified information campaign.

“Kung kayo po ay mag-register dito sa SanJuan.staysafe.ph, our computer system will be able to track you, at kung ikaw ay maglabas ng status na nilalagnat kunwari sa araw na ito, tatawagan kayo agad-agad ng city health office,” he said.

As of May 7, San Juan City has 259 confirmed infections, with 37 fatalities and 65 recovered patients.

Zamora said this is the sixth day that the city has not recorded any new COVID-19-related fatality.

He attributed the improvement in San Juan City’s case doubling rate to the collective effort of the local government and the residents who heeded their call to stay home and observe physical distancing measures.

He also said that the city was able to implement stringent measures as the first local transmission of the disease was reported in Greenhills.

Zamora said the public health crisis has adversely affected the city’s economy but he said he would rather wait than reverse the gains of their efforts to contain coronavirus.

Still, he expressed gratitude to Año for considering San Juan City to be placed under GCQ.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, for his part, welcomed Año’s statement but he also expressed his concern over the safety of the public should they be placed under a less stringent form of quarantine.

Gatchalian said they are still conducting targeted aggressive mass testing, contact tracing and isolation of positive cases to arrest the spread of coronavirus.

They are also coordinating with private laboratories to further boost the city’s testing capacity.

As of May 7, Valenzuela City has recorded 132 confirmed coronavirus cases with 8 fatalities and 24 recovered patients.

The Metro Manila Council, composed of mayors in the National Capital Region, earlier said it may recommend to the government another 15-day extension of the ECQ in Metro Manila.

Metro Manila Council chairman, Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez said they will meet online with Año and MMDA chairman Danilo Lim on Saturday to discuss issues and recommendations on ECQ extension. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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