Friday, August 30, 2013

Philippines/China: Update--High Court Rules That Manila is Immune to Suit, But...

According to The South China Morning Post, and my previous posting of August 26, a High Court judge yesterday (August 29) struck down a claim filed by victims of the 2010 Manila hostage tragedy against the Philippine government on the grounds that a sovereign state is immune from being sued in Hong Kong.

Yet, two of the survivors of the botched hostage rescue effort and the mother of the tour guide killed in the bungled rescue three years ago could continue their legal battle against eight Philippine officials, said Justice Mohan Bharwaney of the Court of First Instance.

Lawyers on both sides are considering whether to appeal the judge's decision.

Last week, Lee Mei-chun, mother of tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, and survivors Yik Siu-ling and Joe Chan Kwok-chu said in writs that they suffered injury and loss as a result of negligence or breach of duty by the Philippine government and the eight officials involved in the failed rescue attempt. They are seeking millions of dollars in compensation. 

COMMENT: The judge referred to the landmark Congo case of 2011 in which the Court of Final Appeal ruled that sovereign states enjoyed "absolute immunity" and therefore were protected from civil or criminal litigation.

Bharwaney said a jurisdiction could not assert judicial authority over a foreign state against its will.

The judge announced his decision after he dismissed the claimants' bid to have the hearing held behind closed doors due to the "sensitivity" of the case.

The eight officials were sued because they were criticized in a report by Philippine Secretary for Justice Leila de Lima. Those officials include:
  1. Then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim;
  2. Manila Police Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay;
  3. Vice Mayor of Manila Francisco Domagoso;
  4. Police Chief Leocadio Santiago;
  5. Former Police Director General Jesus Versoza;
  6. Former Interior/Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno;
  7. Chief Hostage Negotiator Orlando Yebra; and
  8. Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual.
The three victims filed the writs ahead of a legal deadline on the third anniversary of the tragedy in which terminated policeman Rolando Mendoza took 22 Hongkongers and three Filipinos hostage on a tour bus in Manila and shot and killed those from Hong Kong before being killed himself.

The plaintiffs took legal action after they said their demands for an apology, compensation, punishment of the officials responsible and better tourist safety were not fulfilled.

Yik and Chan filed a separate claim against Hong Thai Travel Services for negligence and breach of duty. Chan's hands were injured and Yik's lower jaw, left thumb and right index finger were shattered by a bullet.