Vice President Leni Robredo, President Rodrigo Duterte, former President Benigno Aquino III and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo all had different approaches in handling blunders during their term. Ocampo
In retrospect: How Philippine leaders have apologized for mistakes
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - April 17, 2018 - 4:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo took full responsibility for the controversial photo of her and a number of Liberal Party lawmakers at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany.

The vice president and her party mates were called out for being "insensitive," "disrespectful" and "stupid" by posing and smiling at the memorial.

"While there was no malice in it, I take full responsibility, so I would like to apologize for whatever offense to the sensitivities of the people it caused," Robredo said in a statement released Tuesday.

Robredo is not the only top government official who has had to apologize for a blunder. In past years, Philippine presidents have also made mistakes and have apologized for them while in office.

Arroyo on 'Hello Garci' scandal

On June 27, 2005, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made a public apology over the wiretapping controversy linked to the 2004 elections.

A telephone conversation between Arroyo and Comelec official Virgilio "Garci" Garcillano was leaked. It features a woman discussing the election returns, where she says, "Hello? Hello? Hello Garci? So, will I still lead by more than 1 million?"

Weeks after the tape recordings were released to the public, Arroyo apologized on national television.

"I was anxious to protect my votes and, during that time, I had conversations with many people including a Comelec official.  My intent was not to influence the outcome of the election, and it did not," Arroyo said, reading from a prompter.

"I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment. I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter. I take full responsibility for my actions and to you and to all those good citizens who may have had their faith shaken by these events," she added.

Aquino on Mamasapano clash

On Jan. 25, 2015, an armed confrontation occurred between Special Action Force commandos and gunmen — a probe found that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and so-called "Private Armed Groups were involved in the encounter— in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

This operation, later found to have suffered from poor planning and lack of coordination with the military and with the MILF, led to the deaths of 44 SAF men, 18 rebels and five civilians.

President Benigno Aquino III never apologized for the incident, which earned him and then Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II heavy criticism.

In a speech at the commencement exercises of the Philippine National Police Academy on March 26, 2015, Aquino asked for public understanding over his shortcomings but did not quite apologize.

"I am the president, but I am also human," Aquino said.

"I say this once more: As president, I carry the responsibility... To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation: It is with the abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding," he added.

Duterte on drug war deaths

As the number of extrajudicial killings and summary executions grew in the conduct of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, the president had apologized tor the innocent people who were killed.

In a television interview in December 2016, Duterte admitted that some children ended up as "collateral damage" of his campaign against illegal drugs.

"I would admit there were killings that were really unintended, like the children who were caught in a crossfire. Collateral damage and I'm sorry," Duterte told ABS-CBN News.

A few months after making this statement, the president justified the deaths of drug suspects who came from poor families.

"If you die, I’m sorry," Duterte said in a speech at the Kaamulan Festival in Bukidnon, adding that he cannot do anything if those who were killed in the drug war were poor.

Duterte on 2010 Manila Hostage Crisis

On April 12, Duterte apologized to China for the 2010 Manila hostage crisis that left eight tourists from Hong Kong dead. 

The 11-hour crisis, which happened on Aug. 23, 2010, started after sacked Police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza hijacked a bus with 24 passengers at the Quirino Grandstand. It ended after Mendoza was shot dead by a police sniper.

Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed during the crisis, which was blamed on the blunders and lack of training of Filipino policemen.

"There has been no official apologies for what happened during that August 2010. May I address myself to the Chinese people who are here: I apologize," Duterte said during his meeting with the Filipino community there.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. 

"From the bottom of my heart, as the President of the Philippines and in behalf of the Filipino people, may I formally apologize to you now. I guarantee you that this will never happen again," he also said.

While Aquino had repeatedly offered the government's condolences, he said the act of one individual "should not be construed as the act of the entire country."

Elements of a good apology

Duterte, Robredo, Arroyo and Aquino all took different approaches to handling such issues but how should top government officials apologize?

Citing psychologist Karina Schumann, CNN reported that comprehensive apologies are "powerful tools that transgressors can use to promote reconciliation with the people they have hurt."

Schumann, in a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, said that there are three core elements of a good apology — express remorse and regret by saying "I'm sorry," accept responsibility by saying "I take full responsibility" and offer to repair the problem by saying what you can do to fix it.

An apology may also include other elements such as an explanation of your actions, a promise that you will behave in the future, acknowledgment of understanding how the victim felt, admission of wrongdoing and a request for forgiveness.

"However, because many apology elements require transgressors to admit fault, express shameful emotions and promise change, transgressors often avoid these threatening elements and instead choose to use more perfunctory apologies or even defensive strategies, such as justifications or attempts to blame the person they hurt," Schumann said.

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