Relatives angered by cloth stuffed in victim’s skull and ambulances without first aid kits
By Raissa Robles
Relatives who lost their loved ones during last year’s Luneta bus hostage tragedy have taken the unprecedented step of writing directly to Chinese President Hu Jintao to tack the issue onto the agenda of Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s state visit to China next week.
The visit is the first time a Philippine president is going to the mainland and skipping Hong Kong – home to over a hundred thousand Filipinos and many prosperous businessmen.
The victims’ relatives have also begun an online petition to back up their appeal to Hu. The first time I looked early this evening, 5,046 HK residents had signed up.
Now, there are 5,482 petitioners.
One of them named Eric Lam even added this message:
may the president please help us to fight for the righteous course!
I’m writing this in the hope that we can all gain a better understanding of the situation.
I had a ringside view of the hostage rescue fiasco since I was at the scene, reporting for a Hong Kong newspaper, South China Morning Post. In the last two weeks I’ve been chasing down Philippine government officials for updates for stories to commemorate the first anniversary of the tragedy.
Why bus victims’ relatives demand Philippine government apology
The brother of the slain tour guide Masa Tse Tingg-chunn articulated for the victims’ relatives the pain and frustration they all felt while trying to obtain justice for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.
Tse Chi-kin told the Morning Post the struggle for justice had not been easy:
In the quiet of night, when I feel very tired, I ask myself: should I persist?
Relatives angered by “disrespect” to the dead
One of the things that made the relatives very angry was the “disrespect” shown to the bodies of their loved ones.
I really did not understand what that meant. So I asked Morning Post reporter Simpson Cheung, who covered the victims’ relatives actions in Manila why the relatives y thought the remains had been disrespected.
“You mean you didn’t know?,” he said expressing surprise.
I said I didn’t know and neither did the Filipino people.
Simpson explained to me that during the Hong Kong government inquest on the fiasco that opened last February, a relative of one of the women who died testified that “one of the girls had her brain taken out from the skull and placed inside the main body. They just put some cloth to build the head inside the empty skull.”
Aghast, I asked him where exactly the brain ended up being stuffed in. He said somewhere inside the stomach or chest.
Another thing, he said, was that the brother of Masa, the slain tour guide, complained that when the body of his sibling was retrieved from inside the bus, it was first left on the ground outside the bus, unattended in the rain.
Also, some of Masa’s personal belongings were nowhere to be found, he said.
Ambulance had nothing to stop victim’s bleeding
I also wondered why the victims’ relatives were demanding of the Philippine government the improvement of the country’s “poor medical system.”
What I do recall is that a hospital in Manila was blamed by Hong Kong doctors for the “superbug” contracted by a victim who went into a coma after being hit in the head by hostage taker Rolando Mendoza. The doctors said the victim’s recovery was hampered by the illness.
Simpson explained to me that some of the injured survivors told the HK court that the ambulances that drove them to the hospital had no first aid kits. At least one victim, who was injured in both hands found to his dismay that there was not even a bandage. He had to stop the bleeding on one hand by pressing on the wound with the other injured hand.
My husband Alan told me that this has often been the case. Alan was covering the Department of Health over 20 years ago and that was also the case. Ambulances have nothing inside except the gurney.
Maybe we Filipinos have become so used to substandard services. It takes those from Hong Kong to point out that we should be demanding more for everyone including ourselves.