Hong Kong investigators inspect bullet-peppered hostage bus to ease China's outrage
MANILA, Philippines – MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Hong Kong forensic experts inspected the bullet-peppered bus in which a hijacker was accused of killing eight tourists in Manila last week, as the Philippines worked to calm China's outrage over the bloodshed.
Anger has been rising in Hong Kong since the Aug. 23 carnage in which a disgruntled former Philippine police officer took the busload of tourists from the Chinese territory hostage in a bid to win back his job. Authorities' mishandling of the crisis seemed to enrage the hostage taker, who shot at the tourists before being killed by a police sharpshooter.
Eight of the tourists died. At a march Sunday in Hong Kong, people denounced the Philippines and demanded justice for the dead.
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered a thorough investigation into the crisis and the police response, and on Monday the Philippines allowed Hong Kong forensic experts to inspect the bus.
"We want to appease them and show that we're not hiding anything," Philippine National Police spokesman Agrimero Cruz said. "This is a show of transparency."
Guided by Filipino investigators, the Hong Kong team used flashlights as they looked at the bloodied passenger compartment, taking pictures of bullet holes and shattered windows. Another checked the bus tires shot out by police to prevent the hostage-taker from moving out of a police cordon.
The Hong Kong investigators refused to talk to a throng of Chinese and Filipino journalists.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima met Hong Kong officials Monday to discuss the protocol for their investigation in Manila, while stressing that the Philippines still was in charge of the probe.
Philippine investigators plan to question Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who helped oversee the hostage negotiations, as well as journalists who interviewed hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza by phone during the drama, de Lima said. They may also travel to Hong Kong to talk to survivors of the nearly 12-hour standoff.
The investigation will take two to three weeks to complete, and until then those involved will not be allowed to comment publicly, de Lima said.
Still it is unclear if that will be enough to stem the anger in Hong Kong, which has discouraged its residents from traveling to the Philippines. About 140,000 Hong Kong tourists visit the Philippines yearly and hundreds have canceled planned trips.
Concerns have also been raised about a possible backlash on the more than 100,000 Filipinos working in the territory, mostly as maids.
Buddhist monks and Catholic priests on Tuesday held a "unity memorial service" at the site of the carnage in a historic Manila park.