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Philippine hostage taker surrenders, children freed

The gunman who had seized a bus full of children has agreed to surrender.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Manila
UPDATED ON MAR 28, 2007 06:40 PM IST

A Filipino day-care centre owner who has been holding hostage 31 of his pupils and four teachers inside a bus since Wednesday morning released his hostages in the evening and surrendered himself to the police.

Armando "Jun:" Ducat Jr, a 60-year-old merchant who tried to run unsuccessfully for congress in 2004, looked tired and stressed when he was led to a police truck, accompanied by his friend, Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, who negotiated with him the release of hostage and guaranteed his safety.

He was seen to have a grenade in his hand and a rifle on his shoulder before he was disarmed by Revilla and police officers.

The 30 children and four teachers he took hostage were unharmed and sound, said social welfare officials at the site.

Officials met Ducat's demand that everybody be given a candle to symbolise "enlightenment".

Chief Superintendent of Police Cipriano Querol told Xinhua earlier Ducat would be arrested for a multiplicity of crimes but promised he would not be physically tortured or harmed.

Querol said Ducat was in the bus with 31 children and four teachers when it set off from Tondo, a poor district of Manila, in the morning, ostensibly for Tagaytay, a volcano lake resort town 50 km south of Manila.

One of the children on the bus with running temperature was released.

The spokesman also said the authorities have met his demand that free education be provided to 145 kids in his day-care centre, a kind of kindergarten in poor neighbourhoods here.

Ducat, an art and craft merchant, was demanding free education for the poor kids he said he was taking care of in the day-care centre he owned in Tondo.

He also criticised the politicians for corruption and neglecting the poor and asked Filipinos not to vote for them in the upcoming May polls.

Senator Revilla, who was a movie actor, said Ducat asked that candles be lit at dusk before he surrendered.

"He wants the area around him to light up," Revilla said. "He said the candles would symbolise enlightenment."

After Revilla spoke to Ducat, a senatorial candidate of the pro-government Team Unity also met him to negotiate conditions for the release of the children and teachers.

Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson was inside the bus for 15 minutes to assess the condition of the children and their teachers.

Ducat was reportedly involved in another hostage-taking case some 20 years ago but was not formally charged at that time.

He ran for the congress in 2001 but failed and was reportedly running for a neighbourhood councillor's seat in May this year.

His relatives and friends have denied he had mental or psychological problems.

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