Outrage grows over police mishandling of Manila bus rescue
Amy Ng waits by her son’s bedside in a Manila hospital while her husband and two daughters returned, all in caskets, to Hong Kong on Wednesday.
As the Canadian mother grieves their tragic deaths, fury grows over how the Philippine police handled the hostage-taking crisis in the country’s capital Monday, during which eight tourists were killed in a 12-hour standoff after a disgruntled ex-cop hijacked their bus.
The Philippine National Police has admitted on their website that they had “inadequate communication equipment (leading) to poor coordination among police personnel, while most police stations lack proper equipment for the execution of their duties.”
Manila Police Chief Rodolfo Magtibay took leave and four leaders of the assault team were relieved pending an investigation. The firearms used by 200 police commandos will be subjected to ballistic tests to determine if some of the hostages were hit by police gunfire, officials said.
Adding fuel to the fire is photos circulating on the Internet which show Philippine police officers and students posing, some smiling, in front of the shot-up Hong Thai tour bus, a day after the crisis.
Many messages left on the Facebook page the Hong Kong government set up as an online tribute to the victims targeted Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, with one directing profanities at him.
“Let’s boycott the Philippines. . . . I won’t go to the Philippines again, and I won’t buy anything coming from this country, not even their mangos,” Rida Leung wrote.
The intense criticism by Hong Kong residents has caused concern among Filipinos in a city where some 115,000 of them make up the largest foreign national group, according to a 2006 census. The Philippines consul-general to Hong Kong, Claro Cristobal, said at least one domestic helper had complained of being fired in retaliation for the hostage deaths.
Edwin Lacierda, a spokesperson for Aquino, said Wednesday the government is “doing everything” it can to contain the “backlash” over the Chinese deaths.
More outrage followed allegations that Ng’s son Jason Leung, who underwent surgery for a head wound, was injured by a sledgehammer used to break into the vehicle, instead of the gunshot the Hong Kong government had claimed.
Dr. Mario Juco at the Manila Doctors Hospital said Wednesday morning in a CBC interview that “no slug or bullet was seen” in the wound area and thinks the injury may have been caused by the butt of a gun.
Juco said despite some increase in swelling of the brain tissue, the 18-year-old is responding to pain and his vital signs are stable.
“The mother, who’s visiting him quite often, going to the intensive care unit, seems to have noted that when she talks to him, there is a tendency for the eyes to open a little bit,” said Juco. “So there is some apparent response of the patient to the name-calling when she talks to her son.”
He added the neurosurgeon is “optimistic” that the teen will awake “in about less than a week.”
“He can recover but there may be some weakness of the lower extremity or the lower leg. . .” He said. “As far as speech, consciousness, he will recover.”
Chinese media reported that many of the bullet holes on the windshield of the bus were shot from the outside, giving rise to suspicions that some of the victims — all eight of whom were returned to Hong Kong on Wednesday — could have been shot by friendly fire.
Among them are Leung’s sisters 21-year-old Doris and 14-year-old Jessie, daughters of Ken Leung, 58, who was shot dead when he charged the gunman, his wife said, in an attempt to save the hostages.
Diane Finlay, principal of Bronte College in Mississauga, from which Leung graduated in July, said Wednesday that Leung’s parents “always want the best for their kids” and added that Ng is a “lovely lady.”
“(Jason)’s a great kid and we’re just hoping and praying that everything’s going to go well for him,” said Finlay.
Doris Leung was a student at the University of Toronto at Scarborough who was spending the summer with her family. She was a clarinetist in the UTSC concert band in the 2008-09 season. A fellow band member Cleone Ye described her as “a shy girl who always sat quietly in her section.”
Ye wrote early Wednesday in a Chinese blog post that although she had heard three of the Manila hostage-taking victims were Canadian, she had not realized Doris was one of them.
“She was a talented girl in our band . . . she had a beautiful smile.”