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Gunmen seize school bus in Manila, 31 children held

The kidnapper is believed to be armed with grenades and an Uzi submachine gun.

world Updated: Mar 28, 2007 18:36 IST

A man who started a day care center in the Philippine capital Manila seized a bus full of children and teachers from the center on Wednesday and held them hostage, apparently to highlight corruption in the country.

The man identified as Jun Ducat, accompanied by at least one other man and believed to be armed with grenades, an Uzi submachine gun and a revolver, freed one child who was running a fever in a four-hour standoff.

At least 31 other children between the ages of 4 and 6 and two teachers were still being held in the bus, parked outside Manila City Hall and surrounded by elite police teams and thousands of onlookers.

Ducat said he would surrender if he was promised that 145 children at the day care center in the poor suburb of Tondo were provided with education, television reports said.

He also demanded to be allowed to speak on television and he was handed a mobile telephone patched on to local networks.

"I am so sorry I took these children in a violent action to call the attention of the Filipino people to open their minds to the political reality," Ducat said.

"There's so much corruption in the country. We're number one in Asia in corruption," he said in a speech which lasted for at least 15 minutes.

"I am calling on the Filipino people to stop the rotten political system. Don't rely on the politicians for your future. No one can help you but yourselves."

The children were to be taken on a field trip to a nearby town when the bus was seized. Although the drama dragged on for hours and the bus was parked in the open under a harsh sun, they did not seem to be in discomfort.

Television showed the children waving when curtains on the bus windows were pulled aside. At one stage, a policeman delivered cartons of ice-cream.

A local politician, Senator Ramon Revilla, entered the bus to talk with the gunmen, and returned around 30 minutes later with hopes but no signs of progress. He is believed to know Ducat personally.

"He has some demands and I already gave him an assurance that I would guarantee the education of the children," Revilla told reporters.

"He has requested more time and he would come out with the children. I am asking the police not to make any move that would agitate him."

Ducat was probably the man of the same name who took two priests hostage in the late 1980s after a dispute over building a church, television reports said. In that incident, the weapons used turned out later to be fake and no one was harmed.

According to other reports, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2001 and opened the Tondo day care center three years ago.