By Jim Gomez
The Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — On Aug. 30, Hong Kong forensic experts inspected the bullet-peppered bus in which a hijacker killed eight tourists in Manila last week, as the Philippines tried 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 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.
Organizers said about 80,000 people marched in Hong Kong on Aug. 29, denouncing the Philippines and demanding justice for the dead.
A delegation of about 20 people representing Hong Kong citizens brought along 111,436 citizens’ signatures to the Philippine consul general Claro S. Cristobal’s office, asking for a thorough investigation, a public apology, and compensation for the victims’ family members.
President Benigno Aquino III has ordered a thorough investigation into the crisis and the police response.
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 examined 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. “We couldn’t stomach this crime,” said activist Dante Jimenez. ♦