Flag removed; Rolando's kin ask: Do they want to remove his clothes, too?
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Friday condemned the draping of the Philippine national flag on the coffin of slain hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy said it condemns the brutality of the criminal and "expresses its strong indignation over this irritating act."
"The person who deserves a national flag at funeral should be someone of heroism, decency and integrity, not someone who inflicts atrocity on innocent lives. This is nothing but a smear on the dignity of the Philippine national flag," the embassy said.
Mendoza took hostage 25 people inside a tourist bus in Rizal Park, Manila last Monday in a bid to be reinstated in the country's police force. He and 8 of his hostages were killed in the hostage crisis.
TV footage of Mendoza's wake in Tanauan, Batangas showed Mendoza's casket covered with a Philippine flag, along with his police cap and medals. An ANC report said the flag was placed on Mendoza's casket last Wednesday.
Under Republic Act 8491 or the Philippine Flag Law, the Philippine flag may be used to cover the caskets of the honored dead of the military, veterans of previous wars, national artists, and of civilians who have rendered distinguished service to the nation, as may be determined by the local government unit concerned.
"In such cases, the flag shall be placed such that the white triangle shall be at the head and the blue portion shall cover the right side of the caskets. The flag shall not be lowered to the grave or allowed to touch the ground, but shall be folded solemnly and handed over to the heirs of the deceased," Section 24 of the law states.
It is not clear who placed a Philippine flag on Mendoza's casket but Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the flag had already been removed.
An ANC report, meanwhile, said an unidentified man removed the flag before 5 p.m. to the consternation of Mendoza's relatives. The man immediately boarded a government-issued vehicle and sped off with the flag.
One of the relatives later retorted: "What else do they want? Do they want to remove his clothes, too?"
DFA: It doesn't conform to regulations
In response to the reaction of the Chinese embassy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the draping of the flag on Mendoza's casket does not conform to existing regulations.
"There are rules and protocol with respect to the manner of display of the Philippine flag and we do not consider the display of the Philippine flag in this particular instance as conforming with existing rules," the DFA said.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang said the Palace supports the stand of the Chinese embassy.
In an earlier interview, Mendoza's son, Senior Inspector Vismark Mendoza, said the family did not ask the government for a flag.
"We didn't ask for it. The family did not submit a request but we appreciate whoever it was who extended recognition to my father through the Philippine flag," he said.
Tanauan City says no move to honor Mendoza
Atty. Herminigildo Trinidad Jr., Tanauan City administrator, said the local government has not made any move to give recognition to the slain hostage-taker.
Mendoza is scheduled to be buried on Saturday.
The Chinese government earlier urged Philippine officials to ensure that an investigation into the August 23 hostage-taking crisis in Manila will be swift and comprehensive.
“Both sides are keeping in close coordination,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday, adding that “the most urgent task is to have a complete investigation of the matter as soon as possible.”
“The Chinese (government) and the Philippine Embassy in Beijing have kept in constant touch. The MFA has emphasized China's positions to the Philippine side many times,” the ministry said.
The Philippine government is set to deploy a high-level diplomatic mission to Hong Kong and China to explain the handling of the deadly hostage crisis. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Vice President Jejomar Binay are due to lead the delegation but no date has yet been fixed, the DFA said in a statement released on Thursday night.
A TV Patrol World report earlier showed Mendoza's son, Senior Inspector Vismark Mendoza, formally apologizing to the Hong Kong press for his father's actions.
"In behalf of my family, we are very sorry for the loss of your countrymen. We extend condolences to the family of those who were unfortunately killed last Monday in Manila...Maybe after this we will look forward in helping to develop a good relationship with Hong Kong citizens," Mendoza told reporters. -- with reports from Pia Gutierrez and Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News and Ruby Tayag, DZMM