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What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis

/ 03:26 AM April 24, 2014

In this file photo taken on August 23, 2010, Philippine policemen take position as they start their attack on a hijacked tourist bus in Manila. AFP FILE PHOTO

On August. 23, 2010, eight Hong Kong people died after dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza took a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in Manila, in a desperate attempt to be reinstated after losing his job over corruption allegations.

As the drama unfolded live on world television, police officers, instead of taking out the hostage taker by sniper fire, tried to enter the bus by breaking the door and windows with sledgehammers.

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Alarmed, the hostage taker shot his hostages with an M-16, but was himself shot dead by the policemen.

In October 2010, President Benigno Aquino III called for minor criminal charges, such as “neglect of duty,” to be filed against four police officers for their role in the debacle and lesser administrative charges against then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and a deputy ombudsman.

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Lim and then Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, both Aquino allies, had been held accountable by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee that the President had formed to probe the botched rescue operation of the hostages.

The committee recommended criminal and administrative sanctions against a number of officials it found liable.

But the Palace review panel, consisting of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa, recommended the filing of minor administrative charges against Lim and four police officials.

The move drew heavy criticism from Hong Kong officials and people, stoking calls for an inquiry in the Chinese territory.

The mishandled hostage drama soured relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Last November, Mr. Aquino sent Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras to meet with Hong Kong officials in hopes of resolving the controversy.

Almendras, who left the country amid frenzied response to the devastation caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas, also handed over additional financial assistance to one of the hostages who needed surgery.

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In February this year, the Hong Kong government started imposing sanctions on the country by ending visa-free visits by holders of official Philippine government passport. Ordinary Filipino travelers were not affected.

As Hong Kong began enforcing a ban on 14-day-visa-free visits by Filipino officials, Mr. Aquino rejected anew suggestions that the Philippine government apologize over the bungled hostage rescue.

Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archive

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TAGS: Alfredo Lim, Benigno Aquino III, Corruption, Hong Kong, Hong Kong tourists, Rico E. Puno, Rolando Mendoza
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