MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on Monday ordered charges to be filed against Manila's police chief and three other law enforcement officials over their handling of a deadly bus hijacking in August.
Aquino also called for lesser charges against Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and a deputy ombudsman but spared his closest aides after studying an official inquiry into the incident, which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
The hostage fiasco, in which a disgraced policeman took over a tourist bus in Manila, soured relations with Hong Kong and Beijing and proved an embarrassment for the president in his first months in office.
"The message has to be sent... when you accept the perks and privileges of the office, the duties and responsibilities are equally accepted by you. You are responsible for your failure," he said, referring to the policemen.
Aquino said "appropriate charges" including serious neglect of duty would be filed against the head of the capital's police force, the district police chief, the head of the special weapons and tactic (SWAT) team and the police hostage negotiator.
However his key aides, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno escaped any official sanction with Aquino saying he had instead decided to "admonish" them.
"All of us are people, none of us is perfect," he said, explaining the lack of charges against the two, who are responsible for overseeing police matters.
Another close Aquino aide, then-national police chief Jesus Verzosa, who retired early after the hostage debacle, was also spared any court proceedings because he was found not to have violated any rules, said the president.
The media, including two radio broadcasters who were accused of having worsened the crisis by interviewing the hostage-taker, were also spared.
Aquino said the broadcasters displayed behaviour that was "irresponsible, bordering on the criminal", but he said his government did not want to limit the freedom of the press.
The hostage-taking on August 23 saw a sacked police officer seize a busload of Hong Kong tourists 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.
To assuage the outrage in China, Hong Kong and the Philippines, Aquino created a high-level investigation panel to look into the incident and recommend who should face charges.
The panel in late September recommended charges be laid against a dozen people including Interior Undersecretary Puno, former national police chief Verzosa, Mayor Lim, many of the policemen involved and two broadcasters.
However the president told reporters on Monday that he ordered charges to be filed only in cases where he was confident of a court conviction. (Agence France-Presse)