Philippines Hostage-Taker Frees Dozens, Ends Standoff at Mall

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—A recently dismissed security guard freed his hostages and walked out of a shopping mall in the Philippine capital on March 2, ending a daylong standoff in an upscale commercial district near the police and military headquarters, officials said.

The former guard at the commercial complex, identified by police as Archie Paray, left the V-Mall in suburban San Juan city in metropolitan Manila with his hostages, who were secured by police.

The suspect was allowed to speak before reporters and authorities for several minutes to describe his grievances against his superiors, whom he accused of corruption and abuse, before police approached and subdued him.

“I’m very thankful that everything ended up peacefully,” said San Juan city Mayor Francis Zamora, who negotiated with the hostage-taker to give up his weapons and guaranteed his safety shortly before the crisis ended.

About 60 to 70 people were held hostage by Paray, he said.

Zamora said the suspect, who was armed with a pistol and possibly grenades, shot one person at the V-Mall before he rushed to the second floor and took hostages in an administration office. The victim was in stable condition at a nearby hospital.

Zamora said the suspect was a disgruntled former security guard.

“He felt bad because he was removed as a guard,” he told reporters, adding that the man tried but failed to convince fellow guards to join him.

He was apparently dismissed after abandoning his job in recent weeks without notifying management, Zamora said. The suspect later used his cellphone to deliver a message to the guards and the media, expressing his anger over a change in his work hours and accusing his superiors of corruption.

In a bid to appease the hostage-taker, six officers in charge of overseeing the mall’s security apologized to the suspect at an early evening news conference for their “shortcomings” and resigned or offered to quit.

“I’m asking for his forgiveness, and because of this, I’ll resign from my job so this crisis will come to an end,” said Oscar Hernandez, one of the security officers.

Earlier in the day, more than a dozen SWAT commandos entered the mall, their assault rifles ready. Other policemen stood by outside, along with an ambulance.

The shopping complex, popular for its restaurants, shops, bars, and a bazaar, lies near an upscale residential enclave, a golf club and the police and military headquarters in the bustling Manila metropolis of more than 12 million people, where law and order have long been a concern.

Three years ago, a gunman stormed a mall-casino complex in Manila, shot TV monitors and set gambling tables on fire, killing 36 people who were mostly suffocated by thick smoke. The gunman stole casino chips before he fled but was found dead in an apparent suicide in an adjacent hotel at the Resorts World Manila complex.

While the attack was claimed by the ISIS terrorist group, Philippine authorities rejected the claim, saying the attacker was not a Muslim militant but a heavily indebted gambler.

By Jim Gomez and Aaron Favila