'I will testify to help hostage victims'
Raissa Robles in Manila
The brother of the man who hijacked a tour bus in Manila almost a year ago and shot dead seven Hong Kong tourists and a Hong Kong tour guide says he is willing to testify in a court on behalf of the victims.
Gregorio Mendoza said he supported the victims' and survivors' families' attempts to get compensation for their suffering.
Mendoza is the only man facing criminal charges over the tragedy.
'I am willing. I am just going to tell the court the truth about what really happened that day,' Mendoza said yesterday as he met Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun who is in Manila with relatives of victims and survivors to begin legal moves against the Philippine government and officials over the tragedy.
Mendoza's elder brother, Rolando, was sacked from his job as a police senior inspector and hijacked a Hong Kong tour bus with hostages on August 23 last year in a bid to force the authorities to give him his job back.
The hijacking ended in a bloodbath after he snapped and began firing his M16 rifle, killing eight and injuring seven more. Mendoza was then shot dead by a police marksman.
During yesterday's meeting To told Gregorio Mendoza in front of his lawyer Melchor Monsod: 'We can't rule out the possibility that his testimony ... may be in our favour.'
After the meeting, Monsod said: 'I get the sense they are seriously studying the situation and they are in the process of making a decision whether to push through or not.'
'He [Gregorio Mendoza] will testify if ordered by the court. And he will tell things which he knows are for a fact, whether it's favourable to them or not.
'As long as he focuses on what he knows personally, it's up to the court to appreciate whether it's favourable to the claimants or to the defendants.'
Yesterday, Mendoza was also supposed to meet Lee Ying-chuen, a survivor of the tragedy and Tse Chi-kin, the elder brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn.
But neither of them showed up and lawmaker To gave no explanation for their absence.
Through his lawyer, Mendoza told To: 'I just want to inform the relatives and the people of Hong Kong that whatever Captain Mendoza did I had no knowledge whatsoever of what he thought and in fact did.'
For the first time since the tragedy, Mendoza insisted that throughout the hostage-taking he never told his brother, 'Don't give up'.
He insisted it was one of the negotiators who made the allegation. He also pointed out that even the affidavit of the bus driver, Alberto Lubang, did not contain that.
During the meeting that lasted over an hour, To asked Monsod for details about the case and how the Philippine judicial system works.
The lawyer said Gregorio Mendoza, a traffic policeman, was currently being tried on three charges: serious disobedience which carries a jail term of six months; illegal detention and illegal possession of firearms which are each punishable with 10 to 15 years in jail.
According to Mendoza's charge sheet, although his brother's gun was government issue, Mendoza had failed to renew its registration, which had lapsed by the time of the hostage incident.
Mendoza also told To that his brother personally knew Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim who headed a crisis team that day and who allegedly ordered the police to bring his brother 'to Tondo'.
In police-speak, this meant killing him.
Monsod told To: 'It is understandable that the victims and relatives are contemplating a damage suit [in Manila]. Usually this kind of suit is directed either at the national government or local government, which is the city of Manila and the officials involved will be included in person.'