Hong Kong inquest criticises Philippines on bus hijack

Philippine policemen outside a tourist bus hijacked in Manila on 23 August, 2010
Image caption The incident strained ties between Manila, Hong Kong and the Chinese government

A Hong Kong inquest has criticised Philippine officials for their slow response to a Manila bus hijacking that left eight tourists from the city dead.

An armed ex-policeman hijacked the bus carrying Hong Kong tourists in August.

The five-person jury found that the victims were unlawfully killed and the authorities' botched handling of the crisis directly led to their deaths.

Police stormed the bus and shot dead gunman Rolando Mendoza, who seized the vehicle in a bid to get his job back.

The gunman had spent almost three decades with Manila's police force, but was sacked over claims of extortion.

The hostage drama lasted for 11 hours and eight of the 25 people on board were shot dead.

The botched rescue attempt by Philippine forces was broadcast live on television and radio, heightening questions about how it was managed.

Strained ties

The Hong Kong inquest jury said the Philippine authorities had not met the hostage-taker's demands quickly enough and that they had lied to him.

The jury said the bungled rescue had meant potentially life-saving treatment for two of the victims was delayed.

"Philippine officials left to dine at a restaurant even after Mendoza fired warning shots, meaning no one was on scene to take command when Mendoza started firing at the hostages," the jury said in its verdict.

The inquest heard minute-by-minute details of the crisis from 31 witnesses from Hong Kong and 10 from the Philippines.

The inquest's findings do not ascribe criminal or civil liability to anyone involved.

The incident has strained ties between Manila, Hong Kong and the Chinese government.

Following a Philippine inquest in October, Philippine President Benigno Aquino sought only minor charges, such as "neglect of duty" against four police officers.

The Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, escaped criminal prosecution after President Aquino overturned a judge's recommendation; the mayor and a deputy ombudsman were recommended for administrative charges only.

The BBC's Hong Kong correspondent, Annemarie Evans, says President Aquino came in for much criticism in what constituted his first international crisis.

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