Mon, September 20, 2010
China > China & World > Probe into Manila Hostage Crisis

Philippine fact finding body recommends filing of charges against officials for hostage fiasco

2010-09-20 12:36:41 GMT2010-09-20 20:36:41 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Philippine President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III answers media queries on the final report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) regarding the August 23 bus hijacking where eight Hong Kong tourists were killed, during a news conference at Malacanang palace in Manila September 20, 2010. (Reuters Photo)

MANILA, Sept. 20 (Xinhua)-- The Philippine fact finding committee has recommended the filing of charges against senior local and police officials who are believed to be liable for the Aug. 23 hostage fiasco that led to the death of eight tourists from Hong Kong, President Benigno Aquino III said Monday.

Aquino said in a press briefing that the Incident Investigation and Review Committee recommends that charges be filed against former Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa, Manila Police District's former Director Rodolfo Magtibay, National Capital Region Police Chief Director Leocadio Santiago, Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, chief hostage negotiator Orlando Yebra Jr., Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.

Aquino added the IIRC has also advised that broadcast reporters Michael Rogas and Erwin Tulfo, Senior Inspector Santiago Pascual, who was the head of the Special Weapons and Tactics that conducted the assault, and Deputy Ombudsman for military and other law enforcement offices Emilio Gonzales II be held liable for the bungled hostage rescue attempt.

Aquino said the IIRC didn't mention specific charges that will filed against them. He has also handed a copy of the report to a legal team composed of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa to review the IIRC's recommendations.

"The IIRC report is recommendatory in nature," Aquino stressed, adding that "it's possible I will subscribe to the entirety of the report, add or eliminate some recommendations of the IIRC."

Aquino said he will study the legal team's recommendations after he returns from his week-long visit to the United States.

"As I am now leaving on an important mission, I want to emphasize that I do not want make decisions regarding such important matters without a thorough review. I will study their findings upon my return, and decide accordingly," he said.

Aquino will be leaving for the United States Monday night to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York and meet with U.S. business leaders. He will return to Manila on Sept. 28.

A copy of the IIRC report was released to the public via www. gov.ph, the official site of the Philippine government.

In its report, the IIRC cited several "critical incidents" which led to the breakdown of the hostage negotiations. This include Mayor Lim's failure to activate a Crisis Management Committee, the improper appreciation of the hostage taker, dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza, to be reinstated; the arrest of Gregorio Mendoza, Rolando's brother; the departure of Mayor Lim and General Magtibay from the Advance Command Post at a crucial time; and the inefficient, disorganized and stalled assault led by the SWAT team.

The IIRC also commented on a "total lack of a genuinely serious and well-planned out negotiation strategy. Everything depended on the Vice Mayor (Moreno's) trip to the Ombudsman (Gutierrez)."

It was Moreno who coordinated with Gutierrez in response to Mendoza's demand that he be reinstated after he was relieved from his post due to charges of extortion.

The IIRC has also recommended the filing of charges against several media personalities as their blow by blow coverage may have worsen the situation.

"Crisis situations are news worthy events and media coverage is expected. However, because lives may be at stake, media organizations have ethical and operational rules and regulations on how media personnel should conduct themselves in the coverage of a crisis situation," the IIRC said.

"While the general rule is media could air information that is normally accessible to the public, there are exceptions to this rule. It is when the information or footage might potentially endanger lives," it added.

Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who sits as IIRC chairman, said President Aquino may still add or diminish the number of persons which they have recommended to be either criminally or administratively charged.

De Lima said the IIRC respects the decision of President Aquino to further subject to another layer of review the findings of the review panel, specifically on the recommendation portion, saying it is well within his prerogative.

"The president has two options: to adopt the recommendation in their entirety, or to modify the recommendation by adding or diminish from what we have recommended," she told reporters in an interview.

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