As Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada prepares to fly to Hong Kong to apologize for the killing of several Hong Kong tourists during a hostage crisis in 2010, President Benigno Aquino 3rd stood firm on his decision not to issue an apology over the incident.
In a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino reiterated that the government should not apologize for the act of one man.
“Our position is the act of one individual who is probably mentally unstable at that point in time should not be construed as the act of the entire country,” Aquino said, referring to Rolando Mendoza, who held hostage a busload of tourists in Manila to vent his frustrations on the government.
“We offered again our condolences to all who have suffered and died. But there are limitations, even from the legalistic point of view as to how far we can go,” he said.
The President said he considered the possible “legal backlash” of his refusal to offer an apology, however, he dismissed the calls for reparation of the victims.
“If we accept that it was, in effect, an act of the state then the idea also of compensation comes in—or reparations perhaps is the better legal term—comes into the picture,” he said
”But at the end of the day, we submit the act of one individual should not be construed as the act of the entire nation and when I, as President, apologize, then I’m 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 point in time,” he added
Aquino said that appropriate charges have been filed against those responsible including sanctioning the Deputy Ombudsman “who was directly responsible for not addressing the complaint of the hostage taker Mendoza.
“A lot of careers were ruined when they were dismissed, I understand, the concurrent would be forfeiture of all pay and benefits; things that were built up over life—lifelong career by several senior officials,” he said.
But Estrada said that if the President will not apologize, he will.
The mayor will go to Hong Kong this week to present the apology in the form of a resolution passed by the city council, a city official said.
“There is an admission of a bungled operation. The city of Manila is being more candid now,” Luch Gempis, secretary of the Manila city council, said.
Philippine authorities have acknowledged that police and other authorities mishandled the hostage situation.
The lack of an apology, as well as a refusal to pay compensation, has caused deep tensions between Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Gempis denied the apology was intended to embarrass Aquino, who is a political rival of Estrada’s. He also insisted it was not targeted at Alfredo Lim, who was the mayor when the hostage incident took place.
“The principal purpose of the resolution is to end the controversy, to have closure,” he said.
Gempis said Estrada also hoped to attract Hong Kong investors and tourists back to Manila.
Approval rating rebound
Meanwhile, Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the increase in Aquino’s approval rating, saying it showed that the people continue to repose their trust in the President.
“Over the past few weeks, those being haunted by the increasing probability of being held to account for their crimes have employed a ‘D.O.M.’ strategy—Denying the facts, Obscuring the truth, and Misinforming the public—to turn public outrage away from themselves and to characterize the President in a negative light,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.
Despite the efforts of these individuals, he noted that “public opinion has refused to be taken in.”
“This is a reflection of the unwavering confidence that the Filipino people have in President Aquino and his reform agenda—confidence that has remained strong despite the attempts of those who oppose the President’s good governance and anti-corruption agenda to sow distrust and confusion,’ Lacierda said.
WITH A REPORT FROM AFP