Monday, August 22, 2011

Hostage victims' kin seek justice, compensation

MANILA, Philippines - It was an emotional press conference Monday morning at Fort Santiago where relatives, a survivor, a legislator, and a lawyer faced the media to recall the tragic hostage incident in Rizal Park that led to the deaths of 8 Hong Kong tourists on August 23, 2010.

Tse Chi Kin, brother of Tse Masa, the tour guide who was killed in the August 23 hostage crisis, was crying as he began to narrate the harrowing experience he had when he learned of his brother's death.

He showed reporters a picture on a computer tablet showing the tourists that were held hostage by Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, posing happily before the Rizal Monument in Luneta "I can't believe that my brother is gone," he said.

Tse Chi Hang, a younger brother, spoke with grief and disappointment on the Philippine government's inaction in rendering justice to the families of the victims.

Their mother identified only as Mrs. Tse could not continue with her statement, while crying for the loss of her son.

A lady also seated at the press conference, Lee Ying Chuen, survived the incident. "We discussed to subdue the gunman for ourselves. But we decided not to because we trusted the ability of the Philippine government whose rescue came much too late," was how Lee described her disappointment on how the Philippine government handled their 11-hour ordeal.

Lee also said when she was brought to an ambulance, there was no equipment nor even a single bandage to fix her up. And when they arrived at the hospital, the hospital refused to take them in. Instead they were recommended to be brought to another hospital.

"Its been a year now and we're still angry," said Lee.

She also expressed her disappointment because the government did not even offer an apology or even at the very least try to talk to them. "The only chance we heard that the [Philippine government] talked is when they try to discuss the travel warning. It's all about money," Lee said.

James To, a member of Hong Kong's legislative council, told the press of the 4 demands of the families of the victims.

First, a formal apology from the Philippine government. Second, provide compensation to the victims and families. Third, ask for accountability for officials or persons involved in mishandling the incident. And fourth, improve measures to safeguard tourists.

Mr. To said that 10 days before they came to the Philippines, they went to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong asking for a meeting with President Aquino. Unfortunately, Mr To said they got no reply. "According to the spokesman, the President refused to meet us."

Jonathan Man, a lawyer of 2 hostage crisis survivors, was asked on the rate of compensation that the families are asking. Mr. Man said he is not sure of the Philippine legal system but if it will based on the Hong Kong system, the law provides specific calculations in compensating victims.

The group went to the office of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Monday afternoon. According to Mr. Man, they will also discuss with the secretary the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) report on the hostage incident.

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