MANILA, Philippines – China will be given a copy of an investigative body’s final report on the August 23 hostage-taking crisis before its contents are made public, a Palace official said on Friday.
A copy of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) report could be furnished to China informally, according to Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang. One of the options is that report would be given to the Chinese embassy in Manila to fast-track the process.
Carandang, however, told ABS-CBN News in a text message that the proposal will have to get the approval first of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo.
He added that a high-level Philippine delegation will also formally present the report to Chinese and Hong Kong leaders but this will have to be done after President Benigno Aquino III’s US trip.
The Filipino public, therefore, may not be able to know the IIRC report’s contents any time soon.
The Palace was earlier expected to reveal the report’s contents to the public and announce Aquino’s next move in a press briefing on Monday.
"I have read the report halfway," Aquino told a group of businessmen at a lunch meeting Friday.
He met investigators led by the probe body's co-chair Justice Secretary Leila de Lima later in the day, but Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino would not immediately comment on the report.
De Lima had said that the IIRC’s main task is to uncover the truth on the Manila hostage crisis and not please China and Hong Kong.
She said reporters the IIRC report held more than a dozen people culpable, including police officers, government officials and journalists.
It also concluded that the 8 Hong Kong tourists were all shot by hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza, de Lima added.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, co-chair of the investigative panel, said the most difficult part of their task was assigning blame.
"It's a relief to all of us that the fact-finding investigation is over. It took us more than 2 weeks to complete the report and this was not an easy task as we had to investigate our colleagues in government," Robredo said.
Nation's right to know
Malacañang decision to delay the report’s public release immediately drew flak from lawmakers.
“For the sake of transparency and accountability, he [President Aquino] should release the results here right away as this was promised to us and the nation has the right to know,” said Zambales 1st District Rep. Mitos Magsaysay.
“Delaying its release might make Malacañang suspect to a cover up. Decisive action on his part with reference to the IIRC [report’s] results and recommendations will show his mettle as d leader of this country,” she added.
Davao del Sur Rep. Mark Cagas.echoed Magsaysay’s call.
He criticized the Palace decision to submit a copy of the report to China first before disclosing it to the Filipino people.
“That should not be. The Filipino nation deserves to know first. Are we secondary to foreign relations? PNoy became President for the Filipinos and not for the Chinese,” he stressed.
Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang said the incident had "left a very deep wound in the community" and that the report's conclusions would be carefully examined.
"Our intention is we must get to the bottom of this and we must account for it to the Hong Kong people, and particularly to those who died, the families who have suffered a loss and those who are seriously injured," he told reporters late Friday.
"And we will scrutinize the outcome of this investigation, particularly the conclusions which the Philippine authorities will make on this matter."
3 hostage victims laid to rest
Dozens of people in Hong Kong, meanwhile, paid a sad farewell to hostage victims Ken Leung Kam-wing and his two daughters on Friday.
Ken Leung, 58, and his daughters Doris Leung Chung-see, 21, and Jessie Leung Song-yi, 14, were killed by Mendoza during the hostage crisis.
Witnesses said Leung was killed trying to prevent the gunman from shooting other hostages.
Leung's wife Amy Ng Yau-woon and her son, 18-year-old Jason Leung, were also on the tour bus carrying 25 Hong Kong tourists.
Amy Leung escaped unharmed but her son, the only remaining member of her family, suffered serious head injuries and remains in an intensive care unit in a Hong Kong hospital.
"I come here to mourn Mr. Leung and his two daughters. May peace be with them," said an unidentified female mourner.
"We wish Jason can recover and gets well soon. We come here to show our support to Jason and his mother," said one of Jason's classmates.
Funeral wreaths were sent by Tsang, senior government officials, the Central Government Liaison Office, and the Philippine Consulate-General in Hong Kong. - with reports from Willard Cheng and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; Agence France Presse