HK sets date for inquest into Manila bus drama

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 December, 2010, 12:00am

An inquest will be held in Hong Kong in February into the Manila bus hostage crisis in which eight Hong Kong people from a tour group were killed by a gunman.

The hearing is scheduled to begin on February 14 and is expected to last 25 days. The Hong Kong government decided to conduct its own investigation into the August bus hostage drama, in response to public wishes.

Police investigators have been sent to Manila several times to collect evidence for the hearing. The number of witnesses called to testify was not released yesterday, but it is expected many of the survivors of the tragedy who helped the Hong Kong police investigation will testify.

The Philippine consulate in Hong Kong yesterday did not comment on whether any Philippine officials would give evidence at the hearing.

A Hong Kong tour bus was commandeered on August 23 by armed former police officer Rolando Mendoza in Manila. Eight people were killed in a bungled rescue attempt. Philippine authorities investigated the tragedy, but President Benigno Aquino will not pursue criminal charges against most of the officials found responsible for the incident.

Hostage survivor Li Yick-biu said he hoped the coroner uncovered the truth about how the eight were killed and how others, like bedridden Jason Leung Song-xue, were injured.

'But one of my questions will never be answered - why did Mendoza turn cold-blooded? It involves complicated political matters. The coroner can find out the cause of death, but the answer to this we'll never know,' he said.

Tse Chi-kin, older brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said he believed Hong Kong had been more professional in conducting the hearing than the Philippines.

Michael Rogas, a radio show host who interviewed the gunman by telephone before he opened fire, said he was willing to attend the hearing if asked and his station allowed him to.

Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah said it was not easy to invite witnesses from the Philippines to testify in Hong Kong. 'Courts in Hong Kong have no statutory rights in the Philippines to force witnesses to testify ... Filipino officials can exercise their privilege to refuse to testify,' he said, adding that even if Filipino witnesses refused to appear in court, the coroner's finding may provide strong evidence to help victims' families claim compensation.