MANILA, Sept 17, 2010 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino is to receive a report Friday calling for charges to be laid against those behind the bungled response to a bus hijacking that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
The fiasco has cast a shadow over Aquino's fledgling presidency, led to allegations of official incompetence and sparked an angry backlash in Hong Kong, one of the Philippines' key tourist markets.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the head of the board investigating the hostage-taking said Thursday that the report found up to 10 people, including police officers, government officials and journalists, culpable.
"This report will cover the recommendations on the initiation of administrative, criminal and disciplinary proceedings against certain personalities," she told local radio on Friday.
The report also concluded that the eight Hong Kong tourists were all shot by the lone hostage-taker, de Lima added. It will be up to Aquino to decide whether to follow the report's recommendations.
Sacked Manila policeman Rolando Mendoza, armed with an assault rifle and a handgun, hijacked the bus full of Hong Kong tourists on August 23 in a desperate bid to get his job back and clear his name of extortion charges.
Police have admitted missing repeated chances to take out the hostage-taker and to key officials leaving their posts during the day-long crisis, which ended in a bungled rescue bid broadcast live on television around the world.
Mendoza was killed by police, who took nearly an hour to break into the hijacked vehicle.
Hong Kong police experts helped the Philippines in its inquiry, including hearing testimony from Hong Kong tourists who survived the hostage-taking and helping identify the guns that fired the fatal bullets.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino will read the report over the weekend but was unlikely to act on it before he starts a six-day visit to the United States on Monday, his first foreign trip as a leader.
"I don't know when he will take action on that. He will take some time on it," Lacierda added.
Aquino, accused by the opposition of failing to show leadership during the crisis, has earlier called for time to read the report, which the investigators said would be 83 pages long.
He has, however made clear his determination to ensure that the incident will not define his six-year presidency.
De Lima said the investigative panel will resume its work in late September to review the operations of the institutions involved in the fiasco.
"This would be for our internal and domestic purposes, so as to avoid future incidents like these," she said.
After enjoying a landslide election win in May and sky-high popularity ratings at the beginning of his term, Aquino hopes to draw a line under the hostage-taking.
Aquino has pledged to send a high-level delegation to Hong Kong, where he will to try to head off a backlash in a city that employs 100,000 Filipino domestic workers.
He has also vowed to improve the capability of the security forces, now tied down by communist and Muslim separatist insurgencies as well as hampered by small budgets, to deal with similar situations in the future.