Philippine bus hijacking charges ordered by president

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Philippine policemen outside a tourist bus hijacked in Manila on 23 August, 2010
Image caption,
The incident soured President Aquino's first months in office

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered that formal administrative charges be brought against four police, and two officials for their handling of a deadly bus hijacking in August.

None of them will face criminal proceedings over the event in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

The charges include serious neglect of duty and gross incompetence.

The bungled rescue attempt caused outrage in Hong Kong and mainland China, straining diplomatic ties.

The incident was seen as a stain on the president's first months in office.

'You are responsible'

Disgraced ex-policeman Rolando Mendoza, 55, hijacked the bus on 23 August, armed with an assault rifle, in an attempt to get back the job he lost in 2009 for extortion and threat-making.

On Monday Mr Aquino said "appropriate charges" including serious neglect of duty would be filed against the head of the capital's police force, the district police chief, the head of the Swat team and the police hostage negotiator, reported news agency AFP.

"The message has to be sent... when you accept the perks and privileges of the office, the duties and responsibilities are equally accepted by you. You are responsible for your failure," he said, referring to the policemen, the agency reported.

The two non-police officials, the mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, and a deputy ombudsman, will face lesser charges.

A government-backed report had recommended that at least 12 people face charges.

But key aides of the president, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, escaped any charges.

A former national police chief also avoided court proceedings as he was found not to have violated any rules, the president reportedly said.

The report into the incident had recommended charges against two journalists and heavily criticised media outlets for broadcasting the incident live.

For 45 minutes, the hostage taker was interviewed, disrupting police attempts to negotiate with him. He was also able to watch the police operation against him.

But the two journalists were also spared charges - as President Aquino said his government did not want to limit the freedom of the press, AFP reported.

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