Charges over Philippine bus rescue

Prosecutors seek to charge up to 10 people over a failed hostage rescue that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

    The enquiry uncovered a litany of mistakes by police and other officials assigned to handle the hostage crisis [AFP]

    The Philippine justice secretary has announced that she will seek criminal and administrative charges against at least 10 officials, police and journalists following last month's killing of eight Hong Kong tourists who were held hostage on a bus in Manila, the Philippine capital.

    Leila de Lima did not identify the individuals to be charged, or detail the charges but said "high enough" when asked about the ranks of those facing charges.

    "We have [had] discussions on specific accountabilities of specific officers and [other] personalities," de Lima said on Thursday.

    "We expect the president to act on the basis of our recommendation."

    Killed by hostage-taker

    She also said that all eight tourists, who died when a sacked policeman hijacked the bus, were killed by him.

    "Based on the survivors' accounts, they were really killed by the hostage-taker," de Lima insisted, officially dispelling initial doubts expressed by some of the investigators who hinted that some of the victims were struck by police gunfire.

    De Lima said the panel would seek sanctions against "more or less 10" individuals to be identified in the report on the botched handling of the August 23 hostage crisis, hinting that apart from police officers and civilian officials, certain journalists could be among those facing potential sanctions.

    Pressure on president

    Marga Ortigas, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Manila, said it will be up to the president to disclose the rest of the detail in the report to the public.

    "The panel doesn't have responsibilities [to act on the findings], they can only make recommendations," she said.

    "Benigno Aquino [president of the Philippines] has already promised that heads will roll. De Lima said she expects the president to stick to that promise.

    "There is a lot of pressure [for this situation to be handled well]. People are afraid Aquino might not be up to the challenge he faces leading this troubled country."

    The enquiry uncovered a litany of mistakes by police and other officials assigned to handle the hostage crisis.

    On September 7, the Philippine government said the media had agreed to new restrictions on covering police operations - including limits on live broadcasts

    The high-level enquiry, headed by de Lima herself, is scheduled to submit its findings to Aquino on Friday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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