Aquino maintains: No apology to Hong Kong

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- As Hong Kong’s sanction against the Philippines over the fatal Manila hostage crisis nearly four years ago took effect Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III maintained the government will not apologize for the incident.

Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed after a dismissed policeman, who was demanding for his reinstatement, took them and other tourists onboard a bus hostage in August 2010.

As a result, Filipino government officials and diplomatic passport holders are now required to get a visa if they would go to Hong Kong.

In an interview published Wednesday on The New York Times, Aquino was quoted as saying he had no plans to apologize as this could create a "legal liability."

He was also quoted as saying in the interview that China had not paid compensation to the families of Filipinos who died in episodes on the mainland.

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who was present during the interview by Keith Bradsher of The New York Times, said that Aquino specifically cited the death of Dr. Lina Bunyi, who was one among those killed when a sports utility vehicle crashed at Beijing's Tiananmen Square last year and the case of Filipino father and daughter who died when a knife-wielding man attacked them also in the same popular tourist site several years ago.

"So these are parallel incidents to the act that was perpetrated by the police officer in the Quirino Grandstand incident, and that was the reply of the President, that there was no apology. There was no liability that was acknowledged for these episodes," Coloma said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Jinggoy Estrada supported Aquino's stance, saying the National Government was not at fault.

"I'm sorry. The apologies have been made, below the President's level. I do not see the need for an apology. The victims have been compensated and I do not believe that an apology is called for," Drilon said.

Estrada, for his part, said the most acceptable apology at this point is from the City Government of Manila, where his father, former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, is mayor.

"My father is willing to apologize anytime. He is willing to go to Hong Kong to talk to the authorities in Hong Kong to apologize for what happened in behalf of the City of Manila, not in behalf of the National Government. So I think it is not necessary for the President to apologize to the Hong Kong authorities," he said.

"I think it was the former officials of the city of Manila na nagkamali. They messed up the whole thing," the senator added, taking a swipe at former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, who was the local chief executive when the incident happened in 2010.

But Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the National Government should own up to the hostage crisis especially that foreign tourists were the victims.

"They are guests in our country and this terrible thing happened to them. So I don't see what is the harm in apologizing. As I have said before, I find the position that the Philippine government has taken not to say sorry, a little hard to understand. It would be such a simple thing to do, it would not cost the government anything," he said.

Marcos added that Aquino should think of the welfare of the overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

Coloma called on the Filipinos in China's administrative region, though, to stay calm amid Hong Kong’s sanction. (SDR/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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