A dismissed policeman armed with an automatic rifle seized a bus in the Philippine capital Monday with 25 passengers aboard, most of them Hong Kong tourists, in a bid to demand his reinstatement, police said.
Police sharpshooters took positions around the white-blue-red bus, which was parked near a downtown Manila park, and negotiations to free the hostages were under way, deputy director of Manila police Alex Gutierrez said.
Two of the Hong Kong tourists, both women, were released and were being debriefed by police, Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay said. Police had earlier reported that the tourists were from South Korea but later corrected themselves.
Others on the bus included three Filipinos — a driver, a guide and a photographer, Magtibay said.
The hostage-taker, identified as former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was armed with an M16 rifle. He demanded that he be given back his job on the police force a year after he was fired, Magtibay said.
Mendoza hitched a ride on the bus from the historic walled city of Intramuros and then "declared he is taking the passengers hostage" when the bus reached Jose Rizal Park alongside Manila Bay.
The area also includes the seaside U.S. Embassy and a number of hotels.
The curtains on the bus windows were drawn and live TV footage showed two police negotiators walking to and from the bus and communicating with Mendoza from the window near the driver's seat.
Magtibay said they were also using the driver's cell phone to talk to Mendoza.
"We should really resolve this quickly so that it will not have a wider effect," Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said.