Funds to train crisis negotiators available, says solon

by Kobakila News

MANILA – Government has enough resources to thoroughly train and produce highly capable crisis negotiators needed to quell significant hostage-taking incidents and other highly unstable conditions, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Saturday.

In the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2011, Barzaga said the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC), under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), some P1.1 billion in fresh funding is allocated.

“Some of the funds could and should be invested by the PPSC in fully developing a select group of skillful crisis handlers and negotiators, to be drawn from the various law enforcement agencies,” Barzaga said.

The chief negotiator in the Aug. 23 hostage-taking disaster, Supt. Orlando Yebra, previously acknowledged that the National Police still do not have an official hostage negotiating team.

Besides the police, Barzaga said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Corrections and the Bureau of Fire Protection should also develop effective crisis negotiators.

“Our prisons and jails are extremely vulnerable to highly volatile conditions, such as potential rioting and hostage-taking incidents,” he warned.

Barzaga said the PPSC should also secure the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in training the crisis negotiators.

“The FBI has been helping law enforcement agencies around the world in crisis management and negotiations. We should avail of their assistance for the benefit of our own law enforcement agencies,” he said.

FBI negotiators undergo an intensive special course and are constantly updated by research, case studies and activities designed to build up their capabilities to assess, manage and overcome critical incidents, Barzaga said.

Barzaga previously urged the National Bureau of Investigation to establish a new division patterned after the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group, which boasts of 340 professional crisis negotiators.

He pointed out that due to the lack of competent negotiators, in the past, government had also bungled several critical incidents, including the recovery of foreigners held hostage in Mindanao.

“We are convinced that a strong negotiator, fully and singularly in command of the situation, could have suppressed the Luneta hostage-taking crisis long before it rapidly spun out of control,” Barzaga said.

Meanwhile, Barzaga said the PPSC is expected to spend some P119 million to provide basic training to the 4,000 additional police, jail and fire officers that government will be recruiting next year to reinforce public safety.

Besides hiring 3,000 new police officers, he said the DILG will enlist an additional 500 jail officers, and another 500 fire officers.

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