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Brother of Philippine bus hostage taker arrested

MANILA, April 9, 2011 (AFP) – The brother of a Philippine policeman who hijacked a busload of Hong Kong tourists has been arrested in connection with the incident in which eight hostages were killed, an official said Saturday.

Policeman Gregorio Mendoza, brother of sacked officer Rolando Mendoza who killed the tourists, was arrested on Friday for allegedly conspiring with his brother in the hostage crisis on August 23.

He was freed by the justice department’s bureau of investigation hours later after posting 100,000 pesos ($2,300) bail, said an officer of the bureau.

“He surrendered voluntarily on Friday but he spent less than one day in jail,” said bureau investigator Matt Sampang.

“His case is still going on. The hearings are still continuing. We don’t think he will try to run as he already surrendered earlier,” said Sampang.

If found guilty, Gregorio Mendoza could get as much as 12 years in jail, the official said.

Mendoza’s brother Rolando had seized the busload of Hong Kong tourists in Manila in a bid to get reinstated in the police after being sacked for extortion.

His brother arrived at the scene and supposedly tried to help authorities negotiate with him.

But during the stand-off, Gregorio Mendoza was allegedly overheard telling his brother via mobile phone not to free the hostages yet, prompting police officials to order his arrest.

The sight of his brother being seized by police — aired on the tourist bus television — angered the hostage-taker, causing him to kill the eight tourists before he was finally shot dead after a bungled police rescue mission.

The incident strained ties between the Philippines, Hong Kong and China, especially after President Benigno Aquino brushed aside recommendations that officials and police blamed for mishandling the case face stiff penalties.

Aquino instead called only for minor charges against them, prompting criticism that the president was protecting his friends and political allies.

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