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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Parents defend bus siege gunman
Armando Ducat
Armando Ducat is a hero to some
Parents have pledged support for a gunman who took a busload of pre-school children hostage in the Philippine capital, Manila.

Armando Ducat said he took the action to draw attention to the impoverished conditions in which the children lived.

Prosecutors have filed charges of abduction and illegal possession of firearms against Ducat, and an accomplice Cesar Carbonell.

But without the support of parents a case could be difficult to build.

He was just doing what he thought was right and just for us - the poor
Mirabelle Moreno

Mr Ducat, who built and owns a pre-school day centre in a Manila slum, on Wednesday held 26 children from the facility and four teachers hostage.

The hostages were only released after Mr Ducat was allowed to appear on television and radio to talk about poverty, and urge the public to unite to fight corruption.

Presidential intervention

President Gloria Arroyo has called for tough action against the pair to deter copy cat action.

Children are led to safety after 10-hour siege in Manila - 28/03/07
The hostages were freed after 10 hours
Her spokesman Ignacio Bunye said she wanted the case against them speeded up.

But he said welfare agencies had also been asked to examine what could be done to help students from poor communities.

Lara Moreno, mother of one of the children, told the Philippine Star daily that parents have "no plans" to file charges against Mr Ducat, a 56-year-old civil engineer.

She said they did not agree with his actions, but viewed him as a good man who had tried to help the poor.

Another parent, Rosita Osita, said Mr Ducat had always been there to help, giving the children free education, food and clothing.

Mirabelle Moreno, whose six-year-old son was on the bus, told the Philippine Inquirer: "We don't want him in jail.

"He was just doing what he thought was right and just for us - the poor."

One of the teachers who was held, Elmer Calleja, told reporters they would rally to demand the men's release because "we respect Ducat's beliefs".

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales said the reluctance of the parents to have charges laid would not prevent the state doing so.

Country profile: The Philippines
20 Dec 06 |  Country profiles
Manila bus siege children freed
28 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Manila police end hostage crisis
14 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Manila hostage crisis
28 Mar 07 |  In Pictures

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