MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) There is a possibility that some of the victims in the August 23 hostage-taking tragedy died due to “friendly fire,” Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said.
At a press conference, De Lima said the results of the forensic findings are inconsistent with the testimony of bus driver Alberto Lubang that the victims were shot at close range.
Quoting findings of the Philippine National Police-Scene of the Crime Operations (PNP-Soco) and the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI), if what was used by hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza was the M16 rifle, the wounds sustained by the victims would have been bigger and there would be more blood spatter.
Referring to the bullets, the justice secretary said, “Konti yung mga palabas, mas marami yung papasok (Few were aimed outward, more were inward).”
“Yung ibang entry bullets, malalayo talaga na parang wala silang pakialam. Yung nagtatarget kasi nga total darkness that time (Some entry bullets were really some distance away, as if they couldn’t care less. It was because those who were targeting were in total darkness that time),” she said.
De Lima said he has directed the NBI and PNP to conduct parallel investigations.
Authorities were sent back to the bus to gather all the embedded bullets and conduct simulation firings to determine the trajectory of the bullets.
She added that her office has also sought the assistance of the Hong Kong authorities, who employ more advanced technology.
“We have to determine from whose gun the shots that injured and killed the victims. We do not know that yet,” De Lima said.
De Lima added only the firearms of the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team members were submitted and subjected to ballistic examination.
“I insisted that all the firearms from all of the teams who were deployed there even outside the MPD (Manila Police District) SWAT or any other unit actually deployed—those firearms also should be submitted for ballistic examination. Whether or not they fired the gun, it is SOP for them to determine whether other shots wer made,” De Lima said.
“We should not miss on the possibility that some died of friendly fire, otherwise we will be not that thorough,” she added.
Eight tourists from Hong Kong died in the tragedy that was broadcast all over the world.