MANILA, Philippines – It’s been almost 3 years since 23 people, 21 of them tourists from Hong Kong, were taken hostage at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
Eight of the 21 Hong Kong tourists were killed on Aug 23, 2010 during the 10-hour siege by a sacked police officer.
But for survivors and the family members of the victims, the pain remains, despite an apology from new Manila mayor Erap Estrada aired over Hong Kong’s Cable News.
“On behalf of the people of Manila, as the mayor, I want to say: we are sorry for the incident, for what happened to the victims,” Estrada said in the exclusive interview.
They are also planning to file a case against the Philippine government at a Hong Kong court.
But one victim said it’s a little too late. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Yik Siu-ling said his apology was “insincere.”
“Manila government has not done anything to compensate us,” the Morning Post quoted her as saying.
Survivors and relatives of the victims want four things from Philippine government, the Morning Post reported: “an apology, compensation, punishment for the officials responsible and improved tourist safety.”
If these demands are not met by Friday, exactly 3 years after the tragic hostage-taking incident, they will push through with their plans to sue.
No compensation, no apology from Aquino
Despite his apology, Estrada said he could not promise compensation for victims, citing legal reasons, according to the Morning Post.
Had he been mayor at the time of the incident, he would have apologized and taken responsibility immediately, Estrada said.
In 2010, Alfredo Lim was mayor of Manila. Estrada defeated Lim in the 2013 polls.
“As a promise, that will never happen again under my incumbency as mayor,” he added.
In the interview, Estrada also dismissed comparisons to the Taiwan shooting incident. President Benigno Aquino III apologized 3 months after a Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead by members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
It’s different, said Estrada, because the PCG is under the president. The Quirino Grandstand case, meanwhile, involved local police who are under the mayor, he said.
A year after the incident, Aquino expressed regret over incident but maintained there was no need to issue a formal apology. This, despite the urging of several lawmakers for Aquino to issue an apology.
Hong-Kong PH relations
Relations between the Philippine and Hong Kong turned sour after the hostage-taking incident. The day of the incident, Hong Kong issued a black outbound travel ban on the Philippines. The ban means Hong Kong residents are urged to “avoid all travel” to the Philippines, Egypt, and Syria.
The ban exists to this day, citing the 2010 hostage-taking incident, a May 2013 US travel warning and an August 2013 car bomb explosion in Cotabato.
A 2011 Hong Kong inquest found that the 8 victims were “unlawfully killed.” The inquest also pinned the blame on Philippine authorities for the botched operation. The Philippines’ own report on the incident found Lim, among others, liable for the mishandling of the incident.
On August 23, 2010, Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza held a bus full of tourists hostage after what he called unfair dismissal from the Manila Police service. – Rappler.com