Philippines: 'We already paid compensation'

Officials point to an offer made through an NGO. Survivor, who refused cash, says it's meaningless

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

Compensation for the victims of the Manila hostage crisis has already been paid, past and present Philippine government officials insisted yesterday.

Their claim comes after victims' families and survivors filed a writ in the High Court seeking compensation and an apology from Manila and calling for officials to be held accountable and tourist safety to be improved.

The former Secretary of Tourism of the Philippines Alberto Lim told the South China Morning Post that money given to victims through a private nongovernment organisation was a government initiative.

"We worked it out with the private sector so it would not appear like it was reparation from the government," Lim said. And its Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told the Post yesterday that the government had fulfilled all the victims' demands. "Significant financial tokens of solidarity were likewise offered and were duly received by the victims and their families in 2011," he said.

No government official would disclose the amounts given. A source who helped arrange the offer said "it was over a million US dollars - a hefty sum" and was shared among survivors and families of those who died after Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tour bus in Manila in August 2010.

Mendoza shot dead seven tourists and their guide, all Hongkongers, before being killed in a bungled rescue.

Another source privy to the arrangement described the sum as "hefty" but implied it was under US$340,000. "What I recall is, one million pesos [HK$175,000] each for those who died and half a million … each for those injured."

Hernandez went on to say that the government had apologised on several occasions. "Namely: the meeting between the president's envoy - then tourism secretary Alberto Lim - and then-chief executive of Hong Kong Donald Tsang [Yam-kuen] on December 16, 2010; and in the resolutions adopted by the Philippine House of Representatives and the Manila City Council on August 25, 2010, and August 31, 2010, respectively."

Survivor Yik Siu-ling, whose lower jaw was shattered by a bullet, insisted their four demands were yet to be fulfilled.

Yik said all survivors and families of victims received a letter from a non-government organisation in the Philippines more than a year ago offering them "donations" similar to those mentioned by the latter source.

"What we are demanding from the Philippine authorities is compensation, not donations from an NGO which carry no sense of apology," Yik said, adding she discussed it with her lawyer but did not accept the money. Last week, the group rejected as insincere an apology from Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who was not involved in the crisis.

Addressing the other demands, Hernandez said: "Three officials have been relieved from their positions. Three police officials and a local government leader are facing administrative charges. A fourth police official has been criminally charged."

In addition, the government had formed Tourist Police Units and tourist assistance centres, revised its crisis management procedures and issued guidelines to the media for covering such a crisis, he said. "As far as we're concerned, this matter has been fully settled." But he added that it was the "prerogative of the families of the victims to take any action regarding this issue".