‘I’m not liable in hostage fiasco’ — ex-PNP chief

THE lawyer of former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Versoza yesterday expressed confident that that the former police chief would be absolved of any liability over last month’s hostage tragedy.

Lawyer Benjamin delos Santos said his client “is ready to face all the charges at the proper court.”

“We are confident that he has no liability,” Delos Santos said. “We followed the manual and standard and international protocols on hostage situation.”

Versoza, who opted to retire early this month, is among the 12 police, government and media personalities who were recommended to be charged by the fact-finding panel that investigated the August 23 hostage drama.

Eight Chinese tourists and the hostage-taker, dismissed Senior Insp. Rodolfo Mendoza, were killed in the botched police rescue operation causing a major international embarassment for the Aquino administraion.

Delos Santos, who is also a retired police colonel, said that even the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) admitted in their report that it was difficult to determine who had authority over the incident.

“If you have time to read and really analyze the report of the IIRC, they themselves admitted that it is difficult to determine authority due [to] inadequacy of the manual,” Delos Santos said.

Citing EO 226 issued during the Arroyo administyration, Versoza’s counsel said, “On the layers of command responsibility, it should not go up higher than the level of the NCRPO (National Capital Regional Police Office).”

Delos Santos added: “If you will follow the law, the next higher-up is the NCRPO. The next higher to NCRPO is the operations.”

Aside from Versoza, the IIRC report also recommended filing of charges against Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, NCRPO chief Director Leocadio Santiago and former Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay.

The result of the IIRC report was announced late Monday by President Aquino, hours before he left for the UN convention in the United States.

Aquino said that he will review the report of the IRRC chaired by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and would eventually decide on its recommendations after he returns from the one-week trip to New York. Anthony Vargas

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