Bus hostage victims can’t sue PH, says court

The Philippine government has sovereign immunity, rules the Hong Kong Court of First Instance

STILL WAITING. In this 2011 file photo, relatives of the 8 dead Hong Kong nationals attend a ceremony at the Quirino grandstand, the site of the hostage-taking tragedy. File photo by EPA/Dennis M Sabangan

MANILA, Philippines – Arguing that sovereign states cannot be sued in their court, a Hong Kong High Court judge denied compensation claims over a bungled bus hostage incident in the city of Manila 3 years ago.

Justice Mohan Bharwaney of the Hong Kong Court of First Instance said: “I strike out the claim against the Republic of the Philippines on the grounds of sovereign immunity,” reported the South China Morning Post.

Three individuals — hostage-taking suvivors Yik Siu-Ling and Joe Chan Kwok-chu, and the mother of slain tour guide Tse Ting-chunn — asked for million of dollars in compensation for the tragedy. They said they “suffered injury and loss as a result of the negligence or breach of duty by the Philippines and the eight officials involved in the rescue attempt.”

The Morning Post reported lawyers representing the 3 are still deciding whether or not to appeal Bharwaney’s decision.

Bharwaney said, however, that the 3 can still press charges against 8 former and current Philippine government officials including former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Manila police superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay, incumbent Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and resigned Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno.

Bharwaney cited a landmark case in Hong Kong as the basis of his decision: In 2011, Hong Kong’s Court of FInal Appeals said sovereign states had “absolute immunity” and could not be charged for civil or criminal cases.

According to the Morning Post, the 8 Filipinos are being sued because of a report submitted by Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on the incident.

Three years ago, 8 Hong Kong nationals were killed in a hostage-taking incident staged by a disgruntled Manila policeman. To this day, the victims and their families demand an official apology from the Philippines as well as compensation for their losses.

Last week, incumbent Manila Mayor Erap Estrada — who beat friend-turned-foe Lim during the last elections — said he was sorry for the incident, but added that he was not apologizing on behalf of anybody. – Rappler.com

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