Hong Kong police inspect Manila hostage bus

The Philippines is working to calm China`s outrage over the bloodshed.

Manila: Hong Kong forensic experts on Monday inspected the bullet-peppered bus in which a hijacker killed 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 August 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 his job back. Hong Kongers have blasted a failed rescue operation and botched negotiations that seemed to enrage the hostage taker, who was eventually killed by a police sharpshooter.

Organisers said about 80,000 people marched in Hong Kong on Sunday, denouncing the Philippines and demanding 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 on 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 travelling to the Philippines.
About 140,000 Hong Kong tourists visit the Philippines yearly and hundreds have cancelled 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.

Also on Monday, Filipino anti-crime activists placed flowers at the site of the carnage in a Manila park. One carried a wooden cross bearing the names of the slain hostages.

Bureau Report