HONG KONG - A copy of the report into the botched Aug 23 hostage rescue in Manila, in which eight Hong Kong tourists lost their lives, has been submitted to the Chinese embassy in the Philippines.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon shortly before he left for a weeklong visit to the US, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III confirmed that a copy of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee's (IIRC) report had been handed over to the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jianchao.
Aquino said he hoped its submission to China would help repair relations and "prevent any possibility of miscommunication or misunderstanding".
The report recommends criminal and administrative charges against at least 12 people, including officials, police officers and journalists, Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.
De Lima gave no details about the proposed charges, but said the recommendations were "based on the evaluation of the actions, the non-action, the missteps, the lapses, the negligence, the incompetence" of the people involved.
The 83-page report contained transcripts of hearings, testimonies, forensic reports and other information gathered by the IIRC.
Philippine Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Esteban Conejos said he hoped that the report would provide answers to questions raised by the victims' families and other parties.
Among the figures mentioned in the report, Aquino said, are ex-national police chief Jesus Verzosa and Metro Manila police officers who were in charge during the hostage crisis.
Aquino also named Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and his Vice-Mayor Francisco Moreno, as well as Government Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and her deputy.
The journalists likely to be charged are from local radio and TV networks and were criticized during the investigation for interviewing the hostage-taker at the standoff's most tense moment, occupying a cell phone line that could have been used by police to make a last-ditch offer.
"There are administrative and criminal sanctions being recommended," Aquino said. He did not comment on what charges could be filed, saying this would be determined by the legal review team.
"The report is recommendatory in nature. I have forwarded it and its recommendations to a legal team composed of the executive secretary and the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to make a thorough review of the IIRC's recommendations," Aquino said.
"I want to emphasize that I do not want to make decisions regarding such important matters without a thorough review. I will study their findings upon my return (from the US), and decide accordingly. I will release the committee's recommendations alongside the legal team's evaluation and recommended course of action at that time," he said.
Aquino admitted that the move was part of the government's efforts to repair relations with China. Ambassador Liu affirmed that Philippine-Chinese relations remained strong, resilient and dynamic, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The report's finding will be made public shortly, presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said.
In Hong Kong, a spokesman for the SAR government said it needed time to scrutinize the lengthy document.
But he said the report reflects a "positive attitude" from the Manila government that "deserves to be acknowledged".
"The committee has demonstrated its sincere efforts in working against time and relative physical constraints in completing its first report," he said. "We sincerely hope that the Philippine authorities will continue with their efforts in dealing with the aftermath properly."