Philippines declares national day of mourning for hostages

Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared Wednesday a "national day of mourning" as a sign of solidarity with Hong Kong over its eight citizens killed in a hostage crisis in Manila.

Manila: Philippine President Benigno
Aquino declared Wednesday a "national day of mourning" as a
sign of solidarity with Hong Kong over its eight citizens
killed in a hostage crisis in Manila.

The announcement, made by presidential spokesman Edwin
Lacierda, came amid widespread anger in Hong Kong over
yesterday`s ordeal, in which an ex-policeman hijacked a bus
load of tourists from the southern Chinese city.

"In light of the incident, the president issued
proclamation 23 declaring August 25, 2010 as a day of national
mourning," Lacierda said today.

He said all government offices would fly the
Philippine national flag at half mast tomorrow, although
they would remain open for business.

Lacierda said Aquino also met China`s envoy to Manila,
Liu Jianchao, today to brief him on the hostage crisis.

"The president reassured the Chinese officials that
the Philippine government will extend all assistance to
victims and relatives of victims," Lacierda said.

He said Aquino also promised the Chinese side of a
speedy investigation into the incident as well as protection
of its nationals visiting the Philippines.

Honour guards, roses as Philippines grieves for hostages

Honour guards stood erect as
weeping relatives of eight Hong Kong tourists killed in a
hostage crisis in the Philippines on Tuesday visited the site of
the bloodbath.

A Hong Kong couple representing the relatives lit
incense sticks and joined six monks in an emotional Buddhist
ceremony to remember the dead.

Food and flower offerings were laid out on a makeshift
altar covered with a golden mantle while six monks in robes
chanted emotional hymns to purify the crime scene and to
placate the spirits of the victims.

Just metres behind the altar, forensics investigators
combed through the bullet-riddled wreckage of a tourist bus
where their loved ones spent their last hours as captives of a
sacked policeman demanding reinstatement.

"It is a sad day for the Philippines. It was a crime
that never should have happened," said Social Welfare Minister
Corazon Soliman, who was among top-level officials who joined
the ceremony.

"The Filipino people grieve with them."
Soliman identified the weeping couple as parents of
one the eight victims of yesterday`s hostage crisis, in which
police stormed the bus after negotiators failed to convince
the gunman to surrender peacefully.

The bus was carrying 22 Hong Kong tourists and three
Filipinos when sacked senior police inspector Rolando Mendoza
hijacked it in a crazed bid to get his job back.

Nine people were freed and a 10th escaped before
police stormed the bus.

Eight of those who remained on board were killed
during the police assault.

The incident took place in front of Rizal Park`s
Quirino grandstand, a popular site for foreign tourists and
where Philippine presidents usually take their oath of office.

Today, tourists returned to the site en masse, some to
offer their sympathies and some to have their photos taken
with the bus in the background.

"It was very scary, and it struck very close to home.
As a Filipino, I feel ashamed, so I am here to offer my
sympathies," said Rachel Giron, a sophomore college student
carrying a white rose she intended to lay before the altar.

"Hong Kong accepts many of our foreign workers, and
this is how they are treated here," she said.

Fellow students behind her, however, snapped pictures
of themselves near the crime scene.

"We want to show we are one with them," one student