Almendras: No public apology from PH gov’t but expression of ‘sorrowful regret’

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

THE Philippine government did not issue a public apology but expressed its "sorrowful regret and sympathy" over the 2010 tragic Luneta hostage-taking incident more than three years ago, a Palace official said Thursday.

Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said that Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima came up with a letter given to all the 21 families and victims of the August 2010 hostage taking incident.

"The PNP chief…expressed sorrowful regret and sympathy, and explained what was the police action based on, what was the opinion why it went wrong. To some families it was very important," he said in a media briefing in Malacanang after his trip to Hong Kong on Wednesday when the issue was finally resolved.

"Some people would actually say that the letter of General Purisima is also a form of apology because there were certain paragraphs in that letter that were purposely structured to explain certain things and answer certain questions," Almendras said.

But he admitted that he himself, being the senior government official who flew to Hong Kong, did not make an apology on behalf of President Benigno Aquino III nor of the Philippine government.

"Did I apologize for President Aquinio? I did not say anything to that effect but I expressed certain emotions and certain things relative to that but it was not an outright… I have no authority to say 'I am sorry in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines' but we made sure that we address the issues po," he said.

"I guess that we go back to the most important thing. The most important thing is the families have already accepted it, na hindi ho masama ang loob nila," he added.

Almendras said that a token of solidarity was also being extended to the families of the victims of the hostage crisis.

But he did not divulge the amount, saying it was confidential.

He said most of the contents of the agreements between the Philippines and Hong Kong, including the families of the victims, were confidential.

Not a single peso or Hong Kong dollar came from either the Philippine or Hong Kong governments for the token of solidarity, he said.

The amount came from "businessmen, ordinary citizens, people who cared, even people who were close to certain people in organizations," he said, adding that the victims' families will receive the token within the week.

The Cabinet Secretary apologized for the secrecy surrounding his series of trips to Hong Kong because "there was a lot of emotion and a lot of sensitivity to families and persons who were involved."

"There were 21 victims, 21 families, 21 lives, 21 different perspectives, 21 different opinions," he said.

"Hindi po one size fits all. Every single consideration po, every member of the family or every victim's family had to be put in place," he added.

With the resolution of the hostage-taking incident, Hong Kong lifted the sanction that require Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders to apply for visas when visiting Hong Kong, as well as the "black" travel alert that warned Hong Kong citizens against travelling to the Philippines.

Almendras said the issue is now closed. "Once and for all, completely, absolutely, tapos na ito," he said.

He also thanked Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who accompanied him in Hong Kong, for his help.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed during the August 2010 hostage taking perpetrated by a dismissed police officer, who was also slain in the incident. (SDR/Sunnex)

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