MABALACAT, Pampanga– A policeman from Laguna was hailed yesterday as a “gallant hero” by the chief of police of this town after he sacrificed his safety to save the lives of two children from an apparently famished hostage taker in a bus cruising the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) at about 3 p.m. last Monday.
Laguna police ‘s PO2 Eduardo Santiago remained confined yesterday at the Garcia hospital in Angeles City for treatment of his wounds after hostage taker Isidro Brini tried to stab him repeatedly when their Five Star bus was about to be blocked by police forces in Barangay Mabiga here. With a pistol tucked in his waist, Santiago was compelled to shoot the suspect who died instantly, police probers said.
Initial reports of probers said the suspect’s motive was not clear, but that he was reportedly “very hungry,” having had his last meal at lunch last Sunday.
“Santiago is very much a hero, and deserves to be recognized for gallantry in action,” this town’s police chief Senior Supt. Rolando Mendoza told Punto.
Mendoza said that Brini, a resident of Barangay Cutud in Angeles City, with his five-year-old son Samuel and friends Rogelio Cardoman, Edgardo Lucena, and Adolfo Garabal, boarded the north bound bus in Manila. The suspect had earlier recruited his friends from their native town of Catarman in Samar to work with him in a piggery in Angeles.
Mendoza said that when the bus reached kilometer 75 of NLEx in Barangay Akle in Mexico, Pampanga, Brini reportedly produced a long fan knife and asked the bus driver to pull over.
Thinking that the bus broke down, another approaching bus of Five Star parked behind the suspect’s bus. Brini then allowed the passengers to transfer to the other bus, but kept a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl as hostages.
“The friends of the suspect tried to hold him back but even they became afraid of him and they also moved to the other bus together wth the suspect’s son,” Mendoza added.
The bus driver of the suspect’s bus also fled and refused to go back despite threat from Brini.
Mendoza said that Santiago, who was in plain clothes in the second bus, volunteered to drive for the suspect after he saw the two kids being hostaged.
“All the police forces towards the north were already alerted as Santiago drove on and the bus was already trailed by cops when it exited from the NLEx in Mabalacat. Even then, the bus was noted to be already swerving to either side, indicating some trouble,” Mendoza said, the bus hit a dump truck along the way.
Wounded Santiago later told probers that Brini, who was not aware he had a hidden pistol tucked in his waist, was apparently agitated upon seeing many cops along the MacArthur in Barangay Mabiga here and was poised to harm one of his hostages, prompting him to stop the bus to engage the suspect in a struggle for the knife.
During the struggle, the cop was able to pull out his gun and fired at Brini, even as their bus hit a dump truck along the road.
Mendoza said that Brini’s son was turned over by social workers to his mother yesterday morning.
“Even the suspect’s friends from Samar could not explain what happened. They said Brini could have suddenly been mentally disturbed by tiredness during his trip to Samar, as by their hunger since the last meal they ate was at lunch time the day before,” Mendoza said.
Santiago, who sustained deep wounds in his hands during the struggle for the suspect’s knife, was initially brought the San Rafael Hospital in Mabalacat, but was later moved to the hospital in Angeles.