IN PHOTOS: Police simulate terror attack on Cubao bus terminal

Rambo Talabong
Quezon City police prepare for the possibility of a terror attack on the public transportation hub

MANILA, Philippines – What would happen if terrorists planted a bomb, went on a shooting rampage, and took hostages in public transportation hub Cubao in Quezon City?

About 100 cops of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) tried to answer that question during a simulation exercise (SIMEX) that lasted for an hour at the old Araneta Center Bus terminal.

ANTI-TERROR RESPONSE. During the Anti-Terrorism Simulation in Cubao, a terrorist holds hostage a bus at the Araneta Bus Terminal. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

“The terrorist threat has turned into reality. From last year’s Marawi siege in the Philippines caused by ISIS-inspired Maute Group. It has come to our very doorsteps,” the voice of QCPD operations chief Superintendent Ramon Pranada thundered throughout the transportation complex, signaling the start of the exercise.

At 9:35 am, a bomb “exploded” at the Araneta bus station, prompting a pair of policemen to respond to the scene.

Two armed men – Suspect A and  Suspect B – confronted the cops, triggering a gunfight. The cops shot down Suspect A but Suspect B got on a bus and held its passengers hostage.

During the shootout, emergency medical response teams arrived to assist the injured. There were also K-9 units that checked for other planted bombs.

AID. Police help people injured by a terror attack during a simulation exercise in Quezon City on April 12, 2018. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

Police were able to detect one improvised explosive device. Assisted by a newly purchased bomb-isolating robot, the QCPD explosives division operatives dismantled the IED.

ROBOT. A bomb-isolating robot prepares to pick up an IED. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

At 10:15 am, the police placed the transportation terminal on total lockdown.

Police held a hostage negotiation with Suspect B, who demanded the release of a detained terrorist and a conversation with President Rodrigo Duterte.

HOSTAGE. A 'terrorist' holds a bus passenger hostage during an anti-terrorism simulation exercise. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The suspect gave a 15-minute deadline for his demands to be met or he would begin shooting hostages. It was assumed that he would not compromise.

With the supposed unreasonable demand, police decided to take out Suspect B through a sniper.

MOVING IN. Police move into the bus. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

“With clearance from the Crisis Management Center Chairman as recommended by the Incident Commander, the Ground Commander gave a signal for the final option with the SWAT sniper to initiate the assault,” Pranada narrated.

After shooting down Suspect B, police operatives stormed the bus to liberate hostages one by one for their debriefing.

RELEASED. Hostages walk out the bus after police shoot down Suspect B.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

A medical team tried to revive Suspect B and sent him to a nearby hospital but he was declared dead-on-arrival. The SIMEX ended by 10:30 am.

In his evaluation, QCPD director Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar declared the SIMEX a “success.”

HUDDLE. (Left to right) NCRPO chief Oscar Albayalde, QCPD chief Guillermo Eleazar, and Mayor Herbert Bautista speak before the SIMEX. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

While Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde said that there was still “room for improvement” like the response time of cops, Eleazar said the exercise was done to determine and address the government’s weak points. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.