Filipino police fail to show at video link

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2011, 12:00am

Five Filipino police officers who confirmed on Monday that they would testify via video link at the Hong Kong inquest into the bus hostage killings failed to show up yesterday.

Survivor Lee Ying-chuen and slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn's elder brother, Tse Chi-kin, criticised as disrespectful the absence without an explanation.

Hong Kong's inquest into the deaths of eight Hongkongers held hostage by sacked police officer Rolando Mendoza on August 23 was expecting to hear from the first group of Filipino witnesses.

Four of the witnesses - Superintendent Ruby Grace Sabino-Diangson, Chief Inspector Joseph Palermo, Chief Inspector Shanne Lore Dettabali and Chief Inspector Benjamin Venancio Lara - conducted autopsies on five of the deceased. Chief Inspector Daniel Lomboy was involved in handling retrieved bullets.

The witnesses initially agreed to testify yesterday morning, but failed to show up. They also failed to turn up in the afternoon.

The gunman's younger brother, Gregorio Mendoza, earlier agreed to testify today too. Outside the court, survivor Lee was not confident that the brother would ever testify.

Hong Kong Superintendent Chan Lok-wing, who was in the conference room in Manila where the witnesses were to have appeared, told the inquest via video that the witnesses' supervisor called just before noon yesterday to say that they could not come in the afternoon.

The supervisor, a senior superintendent, did not give a reason. She told Chan that they could testify as early as Thursday, but Friday would be best, Chan said. He met the witnesses face to face on Monday to confirm their attendance.

Tse, the slain tour guide's brother, said: 'It's very irresponsible, and it's not what a government should do. We are angry about that.'

Lee said the Philippine government had been insincere, adding that the Hong Kong Police had received approval from the Philippine government to set up equipment there.

The Philippine government said earlier it was up to witnesses to decide if they would give evidence, but Lee did not accept that. 'Of the 116 summoned, at least 65 were public officers,' she said. 'They were carrying out their duty at the time.'

Meanwhile, all 31 witnesses from Hong Kong finished testifying.

The Philippine vice-consul, Val Simon Roque, said its justice department communicated with Hong Kong's yesterday. The consulate was waiting for correspondence from Manila on arrangements for witnesses - additional to Gregorio Mendoza, whose appearance had already been confirmed - to testify via video link.