Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced on Monday that she is awaiting a response from President Benigno Aquino III within the week in relation to Hong Kong's public inquest on the Manila hostage crisis.
The internal memorandum de Lima sent to President Aquino in December 2010 centered on the inquiry on how to respond to the request made by the Hong Kong government to send over 100 witnesses to appear during the public inquest which is scheduled to take place in February 2011. Among the witnesses the Hong Kong government called to testify include Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, police snipers, doctors and Philippine medical examiners.
De Lima also suggested in the said memorandum that the scope of the inquiry proceedings should also first be clarified to ensure that they are within the scope and legal framework of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the two countries.
According to the MLAT, the Department of Justice and its counterparts in other countries wold render mutual assistance in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses and proceedings by providing evidence, documents, witnesses and records.
In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda made it clear that there is no question about the Philippine government's willingness to cooperate in the said public inquiry.
"Of course we are cooperating under the framework of international mutual legal assistance. How would that be, the concern is ano ang detalye dito po sa (what are the details of the) summons. There are certain details that we need to discuss. There are certain requirements that we would like to also know. But kung tatanungin kung tayo ba ay mag co-cooperate (But if asked if we are going to cooperate), certainly we will cooperate with the Hong Kong authorities,” he said.
De Lima--who is also one of the witnesses called by the Hong Kong government to testify as she served as Chair of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that investigated the said hostage crisis--also suggested in the said memorandum to only bring the different technical experts involved in the investigation instead of bringing all of the witnesses requested by the Hong Kong government.
The Manila hostage crisis took place at the Quirino Grandstand last August 23, 2010 when Rolando Mendoza, a disgraced policeman, hijacked a bus filled with Hong Kong tourists to try to convince the Philippine government to give him his old job back. Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed during the hostage crisis after negotiation talks between Mendoza and the authorities failed. The entire hostage crisis was viewed live on worldwide television.
Both the Philippine government and authorities that were at the scene during the hostage crisis were severely criticized by the Hong Kong government, resulting to the chilling down of diplomatic relations and the release of an advisory to its citizens to avoid traveling to the Philippines.
Aside from the witnesses from the Philippines, the Hong Kong government also called for about 32 witnesses to also testify in the said public inquiry.