Child Hostages Released In The Philippines

Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 7:40 am
By: News On 6

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A day-care center owner armed with grenades and guns held more than 30 youngsters and teachers hostage on a bus Wednesday, then freed them after a 10-hour standoff that he used to denounce corruption and demand better lives for impoverished children.

Clutching dolls, toys and backpacks, the children began filing off the bus shortly after 7 p.m., as Jun Ducat had promised in a rambling message delivered via a loudspeaker hours earlier.

Ducat, a 56-year-old civil engineer who has staged other attention-grabbing stunts in the past, then put the pin back in a grenade, handed it to a provincial governor, Luis ``Chavit'' Singson, and surrendered as Singson held his arm.

Jubilant parents were quickly reunited with their children while Ducat was led to a waiting police car and driven away.

``I accept that I should be jailed because what I did was against the law,'' Ducat said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly before the standoff ended.

Dr. Leopoldo Orantia, spokesman for a government hospital, said the children would undergo checkups and psychological debriefings.

White candles had been lit, in accordance with Ducat's request, and placed in yellow cups lined up under the yellow police tape used to cordon off the area. Police and other officials also held candles outside the bus, as did people in the crowd that went to watch the incident unfold.

Ducat reportedly had chartered the tourist bus for a field trip marking the end of the school year.

Instead, he had the driver take them to City Hall, where a handwritten sheet of paper was taped to the windshield that said he was holding 32 children and two teachers and was armed with two grenades, an assault rifle and a .45-caliber pistol.