Aquino Takes Responsibility for Manila Bus Siege That Killed 8 Tourists

09/03/2010 - Philippine President Benigno Aquino said today he takes full responsibility for the outcome of the bus siege that killed eight members of a Hong Kong tour group.

“At the end of the day, I’m responsible for everything that has transpired,” Aquino told reporters in Manila.

The eight Hong Kong residents died during a bloody standoff on Aug. 23 when an armed former police officer seized their bus and demanded his job back before being shot by a police sharpshooter. Aquino, who was elected in May pledging to improve economic growth by doubling tourism and curbing corruption, is under fire for the handling of the 12-hour standoff.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said after the standoff that he was disappointed with the way the “major tragedy” had been handled, adding he hadn’t been able to get through to Aquino on the telephone at the time.

Aquino today said he will take “interim” control of supervising the police force, relieving Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo of the responsibility.

“The president owning up to this is just one thing,” said Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, an alliance representing thousands of Filipinos who work in the city, many as domestic helpers. “I think the one directing the ground troops on that day has to be identified.”

Leave of Absence

While no one has resigned or been fired, Manila Police Director Rodolfo Magtibay, the ground commander during the siege, is on a leave of absence.

Rico Puno, the undersecretary at the Department of Interior and Local Government, told an investigative hearing today in Manila that he has no training to handle such incidents.

“I am not capable of handling hostage situations,” Puno said during the proceeding, which was broadcast on television.

The bus siege may cut earnings of the Philippine tourism industry by $70 million and may scare away about 100,000 tourists from Hong Kong and China, Philippine Star reported on Sept. 1, citing Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim. (Bloomberg)

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