Philippine police: News conference helped end hostage crisis

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MANILA (AP) — Philippine officials said Tuesday they allowed an armed man who took dozens of people hostage in a mall to hold a news conference to encourage him to free his captives and give police a chance to grab him as he talked with a throng of journalists.

Former security guard Alchie Paray, right, is escorted after his arrest at the V-mall in Manila on Monday.  AP
Hostages walk out at the V-Mall in Manila on Monday.  AP

Reporters said they were unaware that the hostage taker, a recently dismissed security guard at the mall who was identified by police as Alchie Paray, had a pistol with him when he faced the media as the crisis came to an end Monday night. But Manila’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, said snipers were under orders to shoot Paray in the head if he drew his gun or made any hostile moves while speaking to journalists.

The 10-hour hostage crisis ended peacefully when Paray walked out of the V-Mall in Manila’s upscale Greenhills district and freed his captives. Afterward, he faced TV cameras and journalists for several minutes and angrily voiced his grievances against his former superiors before police swarmed in and subdued him.

Criminal complaints will be filed against Paray, including illegal detention and attempted murder for shooting and wounding a mall security officer at the start of the crisis, officials said. The victim was recovering in a hospital.

During a news conference Tuesday, journalists said they were unaware that Paray still had a pistol concealed on his waist when police allowed him to talk to the media the night before. Sinas suggested it was deliberate.

“That’s why your questioning was spontaneous,” he said. “If I had told you, nobody would have stayed in front. Then it defeats the purpose.”

Sinas said police had no intention of putting any journalists at risk during the crisis and even tried to push them away from the scene but some insisted on getting close. Still, he apologized to reporters who he said may have felt “violated.”

Some of the gunman’s demands, including being allowed to speak before the media after releasing his hostages, were granted because authorities believed it would calm him down and bring the crisis to a peaceful end, said Mayor Francis Zamora of San Juan city, the section of the Philippine capital where the crisis occurred.

“It was all part of the strategy and in the end, it worked,” Zamora said. “Nobody died and all the hostages were freed.”

“He wanted his grievances heard. It was very simple so we gave it to him,” Zamora added.

Paray’s former security agency offered 1 million pesos ($20,000) for him to end the hostage taking but the gunman declined the offer, underscoring his desire to bring his grievances to the public, Zamora said.

Nearly 10 hours into the standoff, even with the mall surrounded by SWAT commandos and police, Zamora said he and other officials were concerned that fatigue and the gunman’s unstable disposition may drive him to detonate a grenade that he had with him in the second-floor office of the mall where he held his captives.

Unaware of the police plan, many people, including journalists, wondered why Paray was given a microphone after freeing his captives and allowed to deliver a rambling speech with the police watching nearby.

At least 55 hostages were taken, including about 40 mall employees who walked out of the mall with Paray and were secured by policemen after he decided to end the standoff. Some of the hostages managed to sneak out while the hostage taking was in progress and told police that Paray had a gun and a grenade, police said.

Paray was dismissed as a mall guard after abandoning his job without notifying management but complained that he was maltreated, Zamora said.

At one point during the crisis, Paray was allowed to use his cellphone to deliver a message to mall guards and the media, expressing his anger over a change in his work schedule when he was still a guard and accusing some of his superiors of corruption.

Granting another demand by Paray, six officers in charge of overseeing the mall’s security were asked to apologize to the suspect at a news conference and tendered their resignations.

The shopping complex, popular for its restaurants, shops, bars and a bazaar, lies near an upscale residential enclave, a golf club and the police and military headquarters in the bustling metropolis of more than 12 million people, where law and order have long been a concern.

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