Hong Kong on Tuesday said it was disappointed at the Philippines' decision to spare from harsh punishment those officials involved in a Manila bus hijacking fiasco that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
President Benigno Aquino III on Monday called for minor administrative charges such as "neglect of duty" to be filed against four police officers for their role in the debacle that embarrassed the country and soured relations with China and Hong Kong.
"The people of Hong Kong, especially the survivors and the victims' families, will find this hard to accept," said a government spokesperson in the Chinese territory, according to news agency reports.
"It is very unfortunate that they find it unacceptable or they're disappointed by it. It saddens us that that is their reaction." Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo De Mesa told ANC. "But we just did what we believe was the right thing to do and recommended only charges - which can stand judicial scrutiny."
"The Hong Kong... government is also disappointed. We ask that the Philippine government follow through the required actions," the spokesperson said in a statement.
"The eventual actions to be taken against the persons involved must live up to their pledge to be accountable to the public. That is also what is owed to the dead and the injured. We will convey our views to the Philippine government through proper channels."
In a terse text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ethan Sun Yi said, "The Chinese side looks forward to effective measures to be taken by the Philippine side to address the related issues concerning the incident in an earnest and appropriate manner."
The hostage-taking on Aug 23 saw dismissed Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza seize a busload of Hong Kong tourists in Manila in a desperate bid to get his job back and be cleared of extortion charges.
Eight of the tourists and the hostage-taker were killed and seven tourists wounded when police commandos launched a bungled rescue attempt in a drama played out live on television around the world. Mendoza was also gunned down.
In an attempt to placate the Chinese, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Wednesday said that the Palace would ensure that administrative cases to be filed against Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and the four police officers would be resolved quickly.
"We wish to assure the people of Hong Kong and the Chinese government that the Philippine government is taking active measures to ensure the quick initiation and resolution of the cases to be filed against the individuals found liable in the Aug. 23 hostage-taking incident," Ochoa said.
On orders of the President, Ochoa and De Mesa went over the report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. She said that the Palace team had watered down the committee's recommendations.
Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, the highest administration official recommended for sanction by the IIRC was exculpated, along with then Philippines National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.