x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Charges likely over botched Manila hostage crisis

Senior policemen, the mayor of Manila and two broadcasters are among those who may face criminal charges after the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists.

MANILA // Top officials in the Philippines are likely to face charges over the hostage fiasco that left eight tourists dead, the country's president, Benigno Aquino, said today. 

The government's official response to the recommendations by a panel of investigators into the bungled rescue of the tourists from Hong Kong will be announced next week, as pressure mounts for Mr Aquino's fledgling administration to act on the report, which recommends charging the officials.

Mr Aquino told reporters: "We're going to release the action plan, the implementation plan, sometime mid of next week.

When asked if any of the panel's recommendations would be acted upon, "most of [its recommendations] will be adopted," Mr Aquino said. The report, completed two weeks ago and partially released, recommended that either administrative or criminal charges be filed against about a dozen people for lapses related to the fiasco.

A former national police chief and other senior police officials, an undersecretary of the interior, the mayor of Manila and two broadcasters were among those named in the report. Mr Aquino conceded that the recommendations only asked for administrative or criminal charges, and that his officials were finalising a detailed response. He said the government needed to know "what specific laws were broken, what are the penalties and what is the process to be followed, and that is what we have been going over since yesterday."

The crisis blew up when a sacked police officer seized a busload of Hong Kong tourists in central Manila on August 23 in a desperate bid to get his job back and be cleared of extortion charges. Eight of the tourists and the hostage taker were killed when ill-prepared police commandos launched a rescue attempt riddled with errors in a drama played out live on television. While the report concluded that the victims were all killed by the gunman, it also said "incompetence and negligence" on the part of the police contributed to the bloody conclusion.

The report also faulted three television networks for airing the entire hostage drama live that could have added to the agitation of the gunman.