Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos has lauded the policeman who neutralized the hostage-taker of former senator Leila de Lima at the custodial center of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame on Sunday.
The same officer—Col. Mark Pespes, the director of the PNP Headquarters Support Service (HSS) who directed the elite Special Action Force unit that rescued De Lima—was already slated for promotion even before the incident, PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin said yesterday.
Azurin says an appropriate reward will be given to Pespes, who neutralized Feliciano Sulayao Jr.—the person who took De Lima hostage—as well as other police personnel involved in an anti-illegal drug operation over the weekend that netted nearly P7 billion worth of “shabu”.
“In process na po actually yung mga promotions nila, endorsed by our Sec. (Abalos) kay Presidente (Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) po (Their promotions are actually in process, as endorsed by Abalos to the President),” the police chief told reporters.
Detainees Sulayao, Arnel Cabintoy, and Idang Susukan—reportedly members of the militant group Abu Sayyaf, which has been accused of kidnapping and beheading several foreigners—were killed following their attempt to escape from Camp Crame.
Abalos said Pespes was the one who shot Sulayao, who was able to run to the maximum security compound’s building, where he held de Lima hostage.
The Interior Secretary said that when Sulayao asked for a bottle of water during negotiations, Pespes took it as an opportunity to neutralize him by shooting the hostage taker on the head.
“He (Pespes) is the hero because he initiated the negotiation and took advantage of a situation to neutralize the hostage taker,” Abalos told reporters.
“Col. Pespes showed decisiveness. He assessed the situation, bought time and then when the opportunity was presented, he shot the hostage taker and saved Sen. De Lima,” he added.
Abalos later visited De Lima at the Custodial Center to discuss what happened and for the secretary to check on the ex-lawmaker’s condition, on orders of the President.
Pespes also narrated how he neutralized Saluyao during the negotiation that lasted for about 10 to 15 minutes.
“But we saw that the situation of the senator was becoming more dangerous, so we had to end it. That’s how Sulayao was neutralized,” he said in a press conference hours after the event.
The instruction of the President, according to Abalos, is to look for a place within the perimeter of the PNP Custodial Center to move De
Abalos said one of the facilities offered was the holding areas of Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada when they were detained over the pork barrel scandal.
The facilities used to be the quarters of the officers of the PNP Custodial Center, until they were converted into the detention cells of Revilla and Estrada.
In August, Pespes spoke about De Lima, who celebrated her 63rd birthday that month but saw requests by foreign lawmakers denied because they failed to beat a filing deadline.
As director of the PNP-Headquarters Support Service, Pespes said the PNP does not deprive Persons Under PNP Custody (PUPC) of their constitutional right to be visited, but it should be within the bounds of PNP Memorandum Circular 2018-02.
“We treat all PUPC equally and no one is exempt from this policy,” he said, stressing that even personalities like Leila de Lima are bound by strict rules on visitation.