MANILA (AFP) - – A fifth senior policeman in the Philippines was suspended on Friday amid further revelations of bungling in the chaotic end to a hostage stand-off that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
The Philippine government and police have been under intense pressure all week after admitting to mistakes in the handling of Monday's hijacking of a bus in Manila by a frustrated sacked policeman who was hoping to get his job back.
Eight of the tourists and the hijacker were killed in the final stages of the day-long siege, which saw an ill-prepared Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team attempt to storm the bus but fail to get in for about 60 minutes.
Manila's police chief, Leocadio Santiago, said Friday a senior officer who joined the SWAT assault without permission had been suspended.
"We all saw him on TV. He was in the area but he was not supposed to be there," Santiago told reporters, as he explained the reasons for suspending Superintendent Nelson Yabut.
The siege was broadcast live on television and viewers around the world saw Yabut joining the SWAT personnel without wearing a helmet, bullet-proof vest or any other protective gear.
Yabut was the fifth policeman involved in the assault on the bus to be suspended. Their commanding officer also took leave as part of his efforts to take responsibility for the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities, already furious over the Philippines' handling of the crisis, expressed further outrage after television footage showed a Philippine flag draped over the coffin of the gunman, Rolando Mendoza.
"The person who deserves a national flag at (their) funeral should be someone of heroism, decency and integrity, not someone who inflicts atrocity on innocent lives," the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement.
In reaction, the government moved quickly to have the flag removed, which Mendoza's relatives placed on the coffin ahead of his funeral on Saturday.
The Philippines had planned to send a delegation to Beijing and Hong Kong for a fence-mending visit, but the Chinese government said it wanted an explanation for the police actions before allowing any diplomatic courtesies.
"We think the most urgent task is to get as clear an investigation result of the incident as soon as possible," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday when asked about the proposed visit.
National police chief Jesus Versoza said on Friday it was too early to release any results of the investigations, and pleaded for patience.
"We have a lot of things to study so this might take a long time so please bear with us," Versoza told reporters.
It remained unclear on Friday who fired the bullets that killed the hostages in the final moments of the siege.
National police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said Thursday preliminary tests indicated all died after being shot by Mendoza.
But he conceded that more tests needed to be done and Verzosa did not comment on the issue on Friday.
The police had already identified inadequate equipment for the SWAT team, allowing the media to roam around the hostage site and bad crowd control as failures that led to the deadly ending of the crisis.
Media and security experts have said there were many other major blunders, such as not taking opportunities earlier in the day to shoot Mendoza.
The Philippine military weighed into the debate on Thursday, saying one of its US Special Forces-trained elite units was offered to the police but was not used.
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