PH to give 'generous' amount to HK hostage victims

The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 08 2014 09:19 AM | Updated as of Feb 09 2014 04:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government is ready to provide a “generous” amount to the families of the Hong Kong tourists who were held hostage in Rizal Park by a dismissed Manila policeman in 2010.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said yesterday the government hoped the “gesture of solidarity” with the families would bring closure to the issue, which has caused a diplomatic rift between Manila and the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

Hernandez did not specify what would constitute a “generous” amount.

The government had earlier given unspecified amounts to the victims’ families, recently footing the hospital bills for reconstructive surgery of one of the survivors.

“To put closure to this issue, we remain committed to extend additional and generous gestures of solidarity from the Filipino people,” Hernandez told The STAR yesterday. “We hope that we will be allowed to do this at the soonest possible time.”

Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras is reportedly working out the “generous gesture” with the Hong Kong government and the victims’ families.

The Hong Kong government has demanded an apology from President Aquino for the botched police rescue during the hostage incident on Aug. 23, 2010.

The daylong incident in front of the Quirino Grandstand ended with the hostage taker, Rolando Mendoza, killing eight of his captives inside a tourist bus that he had commandeered before he was shot dead by police.

President Aquino has stood firm on his stand that there is no need for the government to apologize because Mendoza was the one responsible for the deaths.

“We have done everything we possibly can to address the Quirino Grandstand issue,” Hernandez said yesterday.

Aquino had formed a committee headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to review the incident.

The committee recommended the filing of administrative or criminal charges against public officials who were in charge of the police response.

They included then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, interior undersecretary Rico Puno, Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa, Metro Manila police director Leocadio Santiago Jr., Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay, MPD hostage negotiator Orland Yebra and the commander of the MPD Special Weapons and Tactics team, Santiago Pascual.

Charges were also recommended against deputy ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III, who was accused of improprieties by the hostage taker in his effort to be reinstated into the MPD, as well as two journalists and three broadcasting networks.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has personally apologized to Hong Kong in behalf of the city government.

Hong Kong officials insist that the apology must come from the President himself.