Public warned: Stay away from Greenhills where there is a hostage situation

March 2, 2020 - 5:16 PM
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Social media video still shows a security personnel blocking an entrance into in Greenhills shopping centre during a reported hostage situation
Security personnel (R) blocking an entrance into Greenhills shopping center during a reported hostage situation, in San Juan, Manila, Philippines March 2, 2020, in this still image obtained from a social media video. (Courtesy of Pony Alde/Social Media via Reuters)

Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan City was the site of a reported hostage-taking incident that is still unfolding as of press time.

Authorities evacuated mallgoers at the Virra Mall, a go-to place for bargain products, and put the building on lockdown after receiving reports of gunshots in the area on Monday morning.

San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, who immediately responded to the scene, quoted initial reports of police that the suspect was a “disgruntled” security guard who was carrying firearms and a grenade.

In a statement, the mall management confirmed that behind the hostage-taking was a former security guard from the Safeguard Armor Security Corporation or SASCOR.

“We have confirmed reports of an ongoing incident in Greenhills, involving a hostage-taking of some of our employees by a former SASCOR security guard,” the Greenhills Center Management said in a statement.

One of its security guards was also injured and was taken to the hospital.

The mall also warned the public against sharing unconfirmed information online.

“Please bear with us as we allow the authorities to handle the situation. We will share further updates as we get more information. For now, we hope for everyone’s cooperation to exercise caution in sharing unconfirmed information online. Thank you,” it said.

Spectators, however, already shared photos and video clips of the situation in the area despite the warnings.

Some mallgoers opted to warn others from going there given the situation.

“All shops are closed. We do not know how many they are because the shops closed and hiding lang inside the rooms. Please advise your family and friends to avoid Greenhills today,” one Facebook user said.

“Wag po muna kayo pupunta ng Greenhills today. Nakalocked down po buong Greenhills,” another also said.

Zamora likewise advised the public to avoid going to Greenhills.

Others warned that the live coverage of the ongoing hostage situation might be a repeat of the Manila hostage crisis in 2010 which claimed the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists and their tour guide due to botched rescue operations. The hostage-taker could observed the police’s movements via live broadcast on television.

Eight years later, President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to China for the tragedy.

“There’s a station now that’s providing a play-by-play. Have we not learned from the Manila tourist bus hostage-taking back in 2010?” the user said.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines also expressed its concern for American citizens in the vicinity.

“Monitor local news for updates. U.S. citizens in the area please contact your family/friends,” its tweet read.

Around 30 people held captive

A police report later identified the suspect as Archie Paray and the injured guard as Ronald Velita.

Other reports indicated that Paray seized the administration office of the mall and held captive around 30 people inside.

Zamora told reporters that the suspect held a grudge when he was fired from his job.

“Masama ang kanyang loob sapagkat siya’y tinanggal bilang guwardiya at nagdesisyon siyang magpunta rito sa shopping center,” the mayor said.

A negotiator was reportedly talking to the suspect as of press time.