Saturday, March 26, 2011

HK court cites Manila officials' lapses over tourist bus tragedy


Hong Kong’s 28-day inquest of the fatal Manila hostage drama concluded on Wednesday that all the eight Hong Kong tourists, three of whom were Canadians, were "unlawfully killed" on 23 August at the Luneta Grandstand Parade Grounds.
The quest "is not intended to judge who is to blame or who should be responsible" but aims to shed light on what transpired during the unsuccessful rescue operation, Coroner officer Jat Sew-tong told the media, China.org. said.
The HK government was "indeed very disappointed" because most key witnesses from the Philippine side did not testify before the Court.
But despite their failure to testify, the coroner officer said that it had "little effect on the ruling."
The 680 News reported on 23 March that the five-member HK jury found the Filipino officials who handled the bloody operation to either contributed or indirectly caused the demise of the tourists for "lying to the hostage-taker, failing to meet his demands in a timely fashion and bungling the rescue operation."
The Court's rulings only examined the facts of the case and did not suggest civil or criminal responsibility.
A civil suit against the Philippine government was launched by one of the family of the victims.
Manila has accepted HK's findings earlier this week that some authorities were responsible for the deadly outcomes, the Philippine Star reported.
Secretary Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice, and Chair of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that probed the drama earlier on, said on 25 March that HK's and IIRC's conclusions were "essentially or substantially the same."
However, the justice secretary questioned the jury's findings that two of the victims could have been rescued if only the Manila officials were more timely and efficient during the rescue operations after the hostage-taker was already gunned down.
De Lima said, "I’d like to say that such a finding is speculative. Evidence, especially forensic tests, did not show indication that could lead to such conclusion.
"We did not see any wound on all eight victims that was not fatal. The IIRC really found that authorities were slow and inefficient in their rescue that’s why it was bungled."
She admitted her uncertainty as to how the relatives of the victims could file civil suits against the liable Manila officials for the deadly police rescue operations.
De Lima explained, "I don’t know if they could file those suits against a foreign government under their legal system or will they have to go to another forum like an international tribunal perhaps to pursue such remedies."
Details of this report here.
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