Manila: Eight Hong Kong tourists who died during a bus hijacking in the Philippines last month were killed by the hostage-taker and not during a rescue attempt, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.
But she also said at least 10 civilian and police officials would be held accountable for the handling of the hijacking and rescue bid.
Last week, de Lima said some of the hostages may have been shot by police during the rescue bid, based on forensic reports. But in recent days, she pointed to witness accounts showing they were killed by the hijacker.
The police action was broadcast live around the world, sparking outrage in China and Hong Kong and intense criticism of new President Benigno Aquino, accused of badly managing his first major test in office.
"Based on survivors` account, they were really killed by the hostage-taker," de Lima said on Thursday.
"The accounts of three survivors, who were on the bus up to end, are substantial enough. The autopsy reports of Hong Kong authorities are really much more clear and helpful."
De Lima said an investigating panel, due to hand its report to Aquino on Friday, had singled out the 10 civilian and police officials.
"The government has to really show resolve in terms of going after those we will recommend," she said, saying the panel would recommend action including possible criminal and civil sanctions.
Journalists who may have disrupted negotiations with the hijacker during the crisis could also face punishment, she said.
De Lima declined to identify those found accountable, only describing some of the civilian and police officials as "high enough”.