MANILA, Philippines - It was over in 30 minutes.
Bearing in mind a lesson painfully learned five years ago, Manila police shot dead on Thursday, a man who took a passenger hostage aboard a southbound bus on Taft Avenue, Manila following brief negotiations.
The hostage-taking shut down the stretch of the busy Taft Avenue between Padre Faura and Pedro Gil streets on Thursday afternoon, just before rush hour.
Local authorities said the situation was quickly resolved in light of the lessons that the Manila Police District learned following its botched and widely criticised response to the bus hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand in August 2010, wherein eight Hong Kong tourists and dismissed cop Rolando Mendoza were killed, brought infamy to the police and soured relations between Manila and Hong Kong.
"We've learned our lesson. Because of that experience, our police knew that if there's an opportunity to save the victim, the life of that victim is what's important. As much as possible, you have to save lives," said Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who was on site during the police response.
"We have to congratulate our policemen. In less than an hour, it was solved. The victim is safe, and the hostage-taker is dead. We have to congratulate our policemen for doing a good job," said Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who arrived at the scene when the crisis had passed.
Supt. Albert Barot, chief of the Manila Police District Station 5 (Ermita), said the first police responders immediately tried talking to the suspect and calming him down as soon as they arrived at the scene.
Patrolling officers were already in the area at the time the situation was reported, said Barot, as the site has always been a busy spot in the city. Police had received the report on the hostage-taking via Patrol 117, government's emergency hotline.
The bus, an Alabang-bound HM Transport unit, at the time ended up parking on the rightmost lane of Taft Avenue, near the curb by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and just a few meters away from the Pedro Gil station of the Light Rail Transit.
Police said the man held his hostage, a female student whose name was still withheld as of press time, at knifepoint. Passengers, meanwhile, said that the man carried a ballpoint pen as his weapon.
Moreno said responding officers surrounded the bus to look for an opening as talks continued. It was not, however, known what prompted the man to take a bus passenger hostage.
"[Our officers] saw that there was a threat to the life of the victim because he was pointing his knife and pressing it harder on her neck. So the responding elements took the final option," said Barot.
"We acted fast because the threat to the victim's life was already there. The first responder already talked to the hostage-taker asking him to surrender. But while they were talking, he was pressing his knife harder," he said.
The "final option," based on Barot's account, was to shoot the man. Police fired several shots from either sides of the bus, but authorities said the kill shot came from the left side window of the vehicle, by the driver's side.
The hostage-taker, still unidentified as of this writing, suffered at least two gun shots in the body. He was immediately brought to the Philippine General Hospital.
Moreno said the hostage also sustained slight injuries on her neck due to the ordeal. She was also brought to the PGH.