Hong Kong police inspect Philippines bus where Hong Kong hostages killed

Philippine authorities allowed the inspection amid increasing pressure to open a joint inquiry into the shootout between hijacker and police that killed eight Hong Kong hostages.

Noel Celis/AP Photo/Pool
Members of a Hong Kong police forensic team examine the tourist bus used in the hostage-hijacking on Aug. 23 by an ex-policeman at the auditorium at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, suburban Manila, Aug. 30. Hong Kong forensic experts on Monday inspected the bullet-peppered bus in which a hijacker killed eight tourists in Manila last week, as the Philippines worked to calm China's outrage over the bloodshed.

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Hong Kong forensic experts today inspected the hijacked bus in Manila where eight Hong Kong tourists died Aug. 23. Philippine authorities allowed the inspection amid increasing pressure from Hong Kong to open a joint inquiry into the deadly shootout between the hijacker and police.

Citizens of the Chinese territory are growing more angry over what they say was a botched rescue attempt after a sacked police officer hijacked a bus of 22 tourists in an attempt to get his job back. He had been fired for extortion. The standoff lasted more than 11 hours before the hostage-taker was killed by police. One of the central questions to be addressed in the investigation is whether the tourists were shot by the hijacker or the police.

Twenty Hong Kong legislators led 80,000 people in a march through Hong Kong on Sunday to demand justice for those killed and “denounce” the Philippine government for botching the rescue operation, the Associated Press reports.

IN PICTURES: Philippines bus hostage crisis

Agence France-Presse reports that the Hong Kong investigators today were allowed to inspect the bus and the weapons used in the shootout between the hostage taker and police. The investigators will also be allowed to interview witnesses.

Hong Kong-based daily South China Morning Post reports:

Guided by Filipino investigators, the Hong Kong team used torches to examine the bloodied passenger compartment, taking pictures of bullet holes and shattered windows. Another investigator checked the bus tyres shot out by police to prevent the hostage-taker from moving out of a police cordon.

...[Hong Kong’s Assistant Commissioner of Police David Ng Ka-sing] said Hong Kong officers had met with officials from the Department of Justice, Legal Department and the Department of Internal Affairs in the Philippines on Monday morning.

“This was to discuss arrangements for Hong Kong officers to collect evidence and conduct forensic investigations on the bus,” Ng explained.

Ng also said he hoped Philippine authorities would allow them to examine the guns used by police and the gunman. He pledged that Hong Kong officers would try their best to find out the truth.

The Philippines justice secretary pointedly told AFP that the Hong Kong experts “can not interfere in the investigation in general. We have the primary jurisdiction and authority.” The Philippines is conducting its own investigation into the episode, which has highlighted the poor training and rampant corruption in the police force.

Further highlighting the growing pressure placed on the Philippines, the justice secretary also issued a gag order for all law enforcement agencies taking part in the investigation, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She said the investigation results would be released after three weeks, and that she would give daily updates.

Concern has grown that Filipinos in Hong Kong, where more than 100,000 work mostly as maids, may face reprisals. An official at the embassy of the Philippines in Hong Kong told Filipinos to postpone trips to the Chinese territory because of the anger against them there, reports The Philippine Star.

Apparently before the gag order was issued, Philippine police officials said some of the Hong Kong tourists in the bus were shot when they attempted to overpower hijacker Rolando Mendoza, reports the Manila Bulletin. A police official said that account was confirmed by a Chinese survivor’s statements to a Hong Kong television station. The survivor also suggested that Mr. Mendoza became violent when he learned that police had arrested his brother during the standoff.

An editorial in the Bulletin suggested that the “collateral damage” of the tragedy would be a “negative assessment” from the international community of the competence of President Benigno Aquino’s government.

It is in this context of inept handling of crises, inconsistent policy direction, bland Cabinet membership, preoccupation with mundane changes, and seemingly ambivalent leadership style that we see the need for harmonization, synchronization, ubiquitous leadership, and consistency.

IN PICTURES: Philippines bus hostage crisis

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