MANILA, Philippines — An aggravation has been added to the outrage of the Chinese Embassy in Manila over the Aug. 23 killing of eight Hong Kong tourists—the draping of a Philippine flag over the hostage-taker’s coffin.
In a statement e-mailed yesterday to media offices, the Chinese Embassy protested the draping of the flag on the coffin of dismissed Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza, which was shown in television footage of the wake at the family residence in Tanauan, Batangas.
The statement read: “Television reports showed that Rolando Mendoza, the cold-blooded hostage-taker, was laid in his house in a coffin draped in the Philippine national flag. The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines condemns the brutality of the criminal and expresses its strong indignation over this irritating act.
“The person who deserves a national flag at the funeral should be someone of heroism, decency and integrity, not someone who inflicts atrocity on innocent lives. This is nothing but a smear on the dignity of the Philippine national flag.”
Later yesterday, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the flag had been taken off Mendoza’s coffin.
“According to Mayor Sonia Torres Aquino of Tanauan, the flag has been removed,” Lacierda said.
Assistant Secretary Eduardo Malaya, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said earlier in the day that the draping of the flag was inappropriate.
“There are rules and protocol with respect to the manner of display of the Philippine flag, and we do not consider [its] display ... in this particular instance as conforming with existing rules,” Malaya said in a statement.
The Inquirer reported yesterday that there was no flag draped on the coffin when Mendoza’s body arrived home in Barangay Banadero, Tanauan, late on Tuesday.
Mendoza was dressed in his uniform, but even the medals awarded him during his three-decade service in the police force were not on display.
‘They gave it to us’
The coffin of the decorated police officer had no flag on it until Thursday, when Tanauan Mayor Aquino purportedly sent one over.
On the phone yesterday with the Inquirer in San Pedro, Laguna, Mendoza’s sister, Cathy Delgado, said that she saw the flag only on Thursday, and that it had come from Mayor Aquino.
“Perhaps it was their way of recognizing a kababayan (town mate),” she said.
Delgado said she learned about the Chinese Embassy’s anger about the flag when a Chinese reporter covering her brother’s wake asked her about it.
“We did not ask for [the flag]. They just gave it to us, and who are we to refuse?” she said in Filipino.
She added that in her opinion, the flag symbolized recognition of her brother’s 31 years of service in the government.
But when reached by phone, Aquino denied sending the flag. “That did not come from me,” she said.
Asked if it could have come from any of her staff, she said that “if that’s so, I should know.”
Aquino said it was normal practice for her to visit wakes in Tanauan. But she refused to go to Mendoza’s wake in order to avoid the media.
Mendoza was dismissed from the police force in 2009 along with four other policemen for allegedly extorting P20,000 from a Filipino chef.
He hijacked a tour bus early on Monday and took hostage 21 Hong Kong tourists and four Filipino tourism industry workers, demanding to be reinstated and his benefits restored.
He was shot dead by a sniper at the end of the 12-hour hostage crisis in which eight of the Chinese hostages were killed.
‘He doesn’t deserve it’
No tribute or police honors will be extended to Mendoza, according to Director Leocadio Santiago Jr., the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office.
“We did not give flowers or even condolence letters to [the family]. In the first place, he doesn’t deserve it,” Santiago told reporters at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
He added: “We did not give [Mendoza’s family] a flag. We did not give them a vigil or anything.
“If the family draped his coffin with a flag, we cannot forbid them to do that.”
As for the family’s purported plan to bury Mendoza wearing a police uniform, Santiago said the police leadership could do nothing about it because “it’s a private affair.”
“While he does not have the right to wear that uniform, there is no law forbidding that,” Santiago said.
“There might have been mistakes that happened in the past, but [with the hostage-taking and the killing of the Hong Kong tourists], he doesn’t deserve to wear that uniform.”
Phil. Daily Inquirer