Officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) trained by the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program were part of the response team during the hostage situation at an upscale shopping mall on the outskirts of Manila, March 2, 2020.
The incident began when a recently dismissed security guard at the V-Mall shot and wounded a mall security guard before barricading himself and dozens of hostages in a second-floor office. The assailant, who was also armed with a grenade, held captive nearly 70 individuals including some hiding from the gunman inside the mall during the crisis.
The PNP Eastern Police District’s deputy district director for administration, a recipient of ATA training in hostage negotiation, led the operation, which included ATA-trained hostage negotiators from the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group. Over the course of 10 hours, negotiators, including San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, maintained a dialogue with the gunman—bringing a peaceful end to the crisis.
During the situation, police agreed to some of the gunman’s demands, including his request to address mall guards via his mobile phone about alleged corruption of his supervisors at the mall security firm and a demand that six officers who oversaw the mall’s security apologize to the suspect at a news conference. The officers did so and also tendered their resignations.
As the authorities’ final concession, the gunman was permitted to leave the building peacefully with his hostages and hold a short press conference with journalists who had gathered outside the mall.
After several minutes of airing his work-related grievances to the assembled TV news crews, police swarmed him and took him into custody. The officers also removed a pistol found in the gunman’s pants pocket.
Law enforcement officials stated that the gunman would be charged with illegal detention and attempted murder for shooting and wounding the mall security officer.
Mayor Zamora subsequently told journalists at a press conference that police agreed to some of the gunman’s demands to calm him and avoid more violence.
“It was all part of the strategy and in the end, it worked. Nobody died and all the hostages were freed,” Zamora told the journalists.
Established by Congress in 1983, the ATA program is the premier counterterrorism training and equipment provider for specialized police units in friendly foreign nations. Funded by the Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and implemented on the ground by the Diplomatic Security Service, the ATA program has evolved into a key pillar of the U.S. counterterrorism
strategy, partnering with 154 nations to train and equip law enforcement partners whose actions have saved lives.