Relatives and hijack survivors sue Manila

Injured victims and family of slain tour guide say Philippines was negligent in bungled bid to rescue tourists from bus. Eight people died

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 2013, 4:03am

Racing against time, two survivors of the 2010 slaughter on a Manila tour bus and the family of the slain tour guide will formally lodge claims against the Philippines government for negligence in the bungled rescue attempt.

They will submit lawyers' letters to the Philippines consulate in Hong Kong and to the country's Secretary for Justice Leila De Lima on Monday, and subsequently will file writs in the High Court.

The move follows 2-1/2 years of waiting for a response from Manila, and as the three-year statute of limitations deadline for civil action nears.

"From the moment the hijacking happened until now, the Philippines government has not responded to a single request," said Tse Chi-kin, whose elder brother, tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, was one of eight hostages killed on August 23, 2010.

"It has been almost three years. It is really hard to understand," he said.

Joining him in bringing the legal action are Joe Chan Kwok-chu, whose hands were injured, and his friend Yik Siu-ling, whose lower jaw was shattered by a bullet when sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza opened fire in the tour bus in Manila's Rizal Park after a 10-hour standoff.

Tse said the group wanted to grasp the last opportunity to bring justice to the dead and the survivors as the three-year statute of limitation period of a civil case would soon end.

The group has been demanding a formal apology and compensation from the Philippines.

Tse admitted it would be a tough battle.

The Philippines would probably use state immunity to protect itself from legal responsibility, but he said the group would give it a try first.

"I guess it would be 50/50 [that the Philippines would answer the case]," he said, adding that his mother would be the plaintiff.

He said the Hong Kong government had promised to help, but so far had offered nothing concrete.

"I just hope the government could show more courage to uphold Hong Kong people's rights," he said.

Jonathan Man Ho-ching, a human rights lawyer who is helping the group, said the legal action was based on tort law.

"The government could have taken action but it did not. This made a simple matter complicated. In fact there was evidence that the gunman did not want to kill at first," he said.

Man said they were still considering whether they would cite any other official as negligent.

He said the legal team was also still calculating the amount of damages each could claim. But he said Yik would probably receive the most because of her youth and the fact that she could no longer work.

The survivors and family members considered taking legal action in the Philippines, but they were deterred by the expense and the fact that no lawyer was willing to take up their case.