The Philippine government may not be sued for damages in connection with the hostage-taking incident at the Rizal Park in Manila in 2010 in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Sunday.
She downplayed the Hong Kong government's move supporting the survivors and families of the tourists, who were killed by a dismissed policeman, to demand damages from the Philippine government.
The eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and seven others were injured when dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza commandeered a bus full of tourists in Fort Santiago in Manila, ordered the driver to drive to the Quirino Grandstand, and later fired on the tourists. He was subsequently killed by police in a botched rescue operation.
De Lima said the Philippines could invoke state immunity from suits under international laws, saying the recent decision of the Hong Kong government to provide legal aid to the victims in their claim for damages was a mere âexpression of moral support to the victims of the Luneta incident by their government.â
âNo foreign government can grant its citizens leave to sue another government and bind the other government to such an action,â De Lima said.
âInternational law grants sovereignty to each nation and a primary character of this sovereignty is the immunity of states from suits.
âA government can only be sued with its consent, whether by a foreign government or citizens of that foreign government. The grant of Hong Kong govt to the relatives of the hostage victims has neither legal consequence of significance in international law.â
De Lima, who headed the Incident Investigation and Review Committee that investigated the hostage-taking incident, made her statement after a high court in Hong Kong granted legal aid to the survivors and relatives of the fatalities in the Aug. 23, 2010 incident.
Democratic Party legislator James To was quoted as saying that the application for legal aid by the survivors and relatives of the victims was rejected by the Hong Kong's Legal Aid Department at first because the Philippines might invoke state immunity as a defense.
A member of the Review committee, meanwhile, has said such move by the victims to claim for damages should not come as a surprise.
âSome officials could be really held liable for negligence based on our report,â Integrated Bar of the Philippines national president Roan Libarios said.
In August this year, two years after the incident, the survivors and families of the victims reiterated their demand for the Philippine government to issue a formal apology and to compensate them.
They said the officials who were responsible for the bungled operation to rescue the hostages should be held accountable for the death of their relatives.