United Nations

Survivors seek U.N. pressure on Philippines

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am


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Desperate survivors of last year's hostage-taking in Manila and relatives of those killed in the drama are seeking help from the UN to press the Philippine government for an apology and to make reparations.

The move comes after Premier Wen Jiabao last month told Philippine President Benigno Aquino he needed to handle in a proper way the aftermath of last year's bus siege, in which seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide were shot and killed by sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza.

Philippine Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima also promised in August to send regular reports to the survivors and victims' relatives on follow-up action.

'It has been almost two months, but we have not heard much from them,' survivor Lee Ying-chuen said.

She told the Sunday Morning Post that the group was preparing to submit a report to the UN Human Rights Committee accusing the Philippine government of failing to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The covenant espouses the right to personal security and the right to life and states that any person whose rights are violated shall have an effective remedy.

Lee said: 'It is clear the Philippine government failed to protect our personal security or provide us with a remedy. There are many problems with their national policy, security and medical systems which might interest the UN.'

She said she hoped UN action could put pressure on the Philippine government to apologise and offer compensation.

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai, who is helping draft the paper, said many problems could be addressed in the report due to the wide scope of the covenant.

These include whether the arrest of Mendoza's brother during the siege - which provoked him to open fire - was arbitrary, whether there was negligence in handling Mendoza's request to be reinstated as a policeman and if there were sufficient ambulances and first-aid equipment ready at the hijack scene.

If the UN committee accepts the report, it should pose questions that Philippine government representatives would have to answer in a later hearing. The panel would then list concerns and recommendations.

'But it is very difficult,' Law said. 'Apart from drafting the report, we have to lobby the committee members and persuade them to accept our report collectively.'

Law said the recommendations were not binding. However, once victims had exhausted all domestic legal channels, they could make individual complaints to the UN committee, which could issue a binding ruling under international law.

Lee, one of the survivors, said she had been surprised that the extensive coverage of the bus siege on August 23 last year by Philippine local television station ABS-CBN was nominated for an international Emmy award in the news category.

'It is ridiculous. I really doubt the judges' criteria,' she said.

A Hong Kong inquest in March heard that Mendoza was provoked to open fire after watching his brother get arrested by police on a live television broadcast seen inside the bus.

But Tse Chi-kin, elder brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said freedom of the press should be respected. 'Even if there was no live broadcast, the result might have been the same,' he said.

The report did not win the Emmy.