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Hostage crisis: No Noy apology to HK

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has reiterated the Philippines’ stand not to apologize to Hong Kong over the hostage crisis in Manila in 2010 that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists, since doing so could create a legal liability.

The President made his first public response to Hong Kong’s latest demand for an apology in an interview published Wednesday in The New York Times.

“When I apologize, then I am apologizing on behalf of the sin visited by the entire country on these Hong Kong residents, and I don’t think that is appropriate at this time.”

Aquino also appeared closed to the idea of compensation.

“Legal backlash? That has to be a consideration,” Aquino said, alluding to compensation in response to a question from a reporter.

“If we accept that it was, in effect, an act of the state, then the idea of compensation or remuneration comes into the picture,” he said in the interview last Tuesday at the Palace.

In October 2013, Aquino had ruled out a formal apology, saying, “we submit that the act of one individual should not be construed as the act of the entire nation.”

The Hong Kong government recently cancelled visa-free entry for Filipino officials and diplomatic passport holders going to Hong Kong as a sanction for the Philippine government’s failure to apologize.

The move is expected to affect only Philippine government officials and not holders of regular passports.

Aquino was also quoted as saying in the interview that China had not paid compensation to the families of Filipinos who died in an alleged “terror attack” in Beijing last year, as well as other incidents where Filipinos have died.

In October last year, a Filipina doctor, her husband and children were among the victims of a “terrorist attack” in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The doctor, who was killed, was identified as Rizalina Bunyi, an obstetrician-gynecologist based in Imus, Cavite. Her husband and two daughters were two of 38 injured in the attack.

The family was on vacation in Beijing when the crash happened.

On April 19, 2005, 25-year-old Chinese Wang Gongzuo killed Emmanuel Madrigal and his teenage daughter Regina Mia, using a scythe also in Tiananmen Square in broad daylight. They were getting off a tourist bus when they were attacked. Wang reportedly wanted to vent his anger against society.

Madrigal’s wife, Vivian, suffered injuries but their two other younger daughters were spared.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said talks with Hong Kong were continuing and that the President’s statement was just a reiteration of the country’s stand on the matter of formal apology.

Coloma said the country had addressed the various demands of Hong Kong and the deadlock was only on the matter of apology.

He appealed to the Filipinos in Hong Kong to remain calm despite the restrictions and that the government was ready for such action.

He also gave assurance that the Philippines would do everything to protect Filipinos in Hong Kong.

Coloma said no retaliatory action was being contemplated at this time.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier said the visa requirement for Filipino officials and diplomats was the “first phase of sanctions” over the Philippines’ refusal to apologize for the hostage-taking incident.

Erap defends P-Noy

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada yesterday defended President Aquino’s decision not to apologize to the Hong Kong government.

Estrada instead put the blame on former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim for bungling the operations to free the hostages.

The national government had nothing to do with the botched hostage crisis, Estrada said.

“Why blame the President? We have to admit that it was the fault of the past administration, the local government of Manila. Local executives are given the power under the Local Government Code. It’s the fault of the local official, not the President. The President need not apologize,” he told a press conference.

Estrada said that as the incumbent mayor he has to apologize to Hong Kong and do what his predecessor Lim failed to do.

He said the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo had found Lim guilty of neglect in the bungled 2010 hostage crisis.

“Secretary Robredo even recommended Lim’s suspension,” he said, adding Lim should also apologize.

The Manila police chief at the time went on leave while five other police officers were relieved because of their hesitation and lapses during the assault on the tourist bus where dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza held the Hong Kong citizens hostage.

Mendoza, dismissed from the police force for extortion, commandeered a Hong Thai Travel tourist bus in Intramuros and held hostage 21 Hong Kong tourists and four Filipino guides for several hours in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

The suspect, armed with an M16 rifle and a pistol, had released several hostages before the police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team assaulted the bus, resulting in the death of the hostage taker and eight tourists.

Police hostage negotiators said Mendoza turned violent due to frustrations after failing to get his demand to be reinstated in the police force.

Estrada said the ongoing dispute with Hong Kong could affect thousands overseas Filipino workers.

Manila officials would not stop until the Hong Kong government is convinced of the Filipinos’ regret over the hostage incident, said Estrada.

He said Councilor Bernie Ang would return to Hong Kong today.

Ang will prepare for the visit of Estrada who will hold talks with Hong Kong officials.

Estrada said he also asked for donations from his friends to compensate the families of the eight Hong Kong tourists killed and two others who remain in hospital.

“I’m offering some donations from our friends here. We will chip in to compensate them,” Estrada said.

Estrada said the Manila City Council already passed a resolution apologizing to the Hong Kong government.

“The whole city offered its apology to the Hong Kong government. I will exhaust all remedy to resume Manila’s good relations with Hong Kong and China,” Estrada said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called yesterday for sobriety as Hong Kong began implementing its sanctions against the Philippines.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippines has done everything to resolve the issue and offered more financial assistance for the victims of the hostage crisis and their families. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Pia Lee-Brago, Marvin Sy

APOLOGIZE

AQUINO

BEIJING

ESTRADA

GOVERNMENT

HONG

HONG KONG

HOSTAGE

IN OCTOBER

KONG

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