Manila, Philippines — The progress of the joint Philippine-Hong Kong investigation in the former Crown Colony is getting better with two more survivors agreeing to shed light on the August 23 Manila hostage drama that led to the death of eight HK tourists and the hostage-taker.
Two probe teams sent by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, chairman of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IICR), to Hong Kong to get statements or depositions from survivors will also try to recover three mobile phones, key pieces of evidence in the hostage-taking which were mistakenly turned over to Hong Kong authorities.
Earlier, two survivors expressed interests to cooperate with Philippine authorities by giving statements.
Two more survivors agreed to be interviewed by two RP teams in close coordination with Hong Kong authorities.
De Lima said ballistic examination will be done in Hong Kong which has more sophisticated equipment. It would only take three days to get the result of the ballistic in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong sophisticated equipment also give very accurate result.
The two teams will stay in Hong Kong until Friday and the Department of Justice (DoJ) said the joint efforts of the Philippines and Hong Kong in the conduct of the probe is getting better.
In an authority to travel, De Lima directed Assistant State Prosecutor Cielito C. Celi, of the Office of the Prosecutor General, National Prosecution Service, Department of Justice to fly to Hong Kong. Joining Celi in the first team were Head Agent Danielito Q. Lalusis and ballistician Perla Landicho, both of the NBI.
The second team is composed of Superintendents Lorlie Nilo Arroyo and Reynaldo Dimalanta de Guzman, both of the PNP.
The NBI personnel brought with them the slugs and shell casings used by the police assault team in the August 23 hostage-taking in front of the Quirino Grandstand.
As this developed, the government has forged an initial four-point consensus with media organizations on coverage conduct during crisis situations, including a prohibition on live coverage of the movement of security forces handling the matter.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma said they also agreed to establish a “safety zone” that prohibits the entry of civilians, including journalists, near the crisis area to prevent the loss of life.
Coloma said media outfits agreed not to interfere in police operations including hostage negotiations and instead leave the matter to authorities. A “point person” from the police force or the government would likewise be designated to provide accurate information to the press during crisis situations.
Such agreement was reached during consultations of the Presidential Communications Group with representatives of media organizations in the aftermath of the violate hostage drama at the Quirino Grandstand last August 23.
“The direction is really towards that these organizations imposing upon themselves appropriate measures in order to ensure that the conduct of media practitioners will not impair police or security operations,” Coloma said in a press briefing at the Palace.
“With regard to considering the possibility of putting some restrains on the live coverage of an assault or of actual troop movements, I think this has already been agreed upon in the past. The troop movement should not be monitored live as it will impair the operations that are being conducted. These are among the points that seem to be generally accepted,” he added.
Coloma said they continue to prefer “self-regulation” and “self-discipline” among media outfits on their conduct during a crisis. He added it is up to media groups to impose disciplinary measures to journalists who may violate the conduct on crisis situations in keeping with the ethical standards of the profession.
Coloma likewise asserted that the executive branch is not keen on supporting a legislative restraint on the media, citing the President’s policy against prior restraint on the press. “He would like to see media organizations and media practitioners to observe self-discipline and self-regulation. That has been the consistent policy of this administration,” he said.
But the Palace official admitted that they are “keeping an open mind” and will listen to lawmakers amid the planned inquiry into media conduct into the August 23 hostage incident.
“Keeping an open mind means willingness to listen and I think that is the basic requirement. I am not prejudging an issue without even having heard of it at all. I think it’s a basic canon or fairness that another party is entitled to state its case and to affair hearing of what it wants to express,” said Coloma, who is expected to attend the hearing on Thursday.
On the part of the government, Coloma said they will come up with “crisis communication and crisis management guidelines” as a result of the hostage drama in Manila.
He said cabinet secretaries were asked to review existing provisions for contingency measures “so that we will be better prepared for future contingencies and other crisis situations that may arise.”
“There would be a need for constant updates. Since we are operating in the same premises, there is really no need to create long gaps in communication especially in crisis like this where there is every opportunity for government and media to work together to prevent unfortunate incident from recurring,” he said.
Jeamma Sabate, Manila Bulletin