DFA on Erap’s HK apology: Aquino’s stand prevails

Paterno Esmaquel II
The foreign affairs department says President Aquino's repeated refusal to apologize to Hong Kong 'should be enough guidance for everyone'

READY TO RUMBLE. Contradicting the sitting President, former president nd now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada says he will apologize to Hong Kong. File photo by Rappler/Leanne Jazul

MANILA, Philippines – Caught in a clash between a sitting President and a former president who is now Manila mayor, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday, October 24, said it is clear whose words prevail.

The DFA said the decision of President Benigno Aquino III not to apologize to Hong Kong for the 2010 hostage crisis “should be enough guidance for everyone.”

The statement came after former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said his city, through a resolution, will apologize to the Hong Kong government for the hostage-taking incident. (READ: Erap to issue formal apology for 2010 hostage-taking.)

“I think former President Estrada, as mayor, is acting on his own,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters in an interview.

In a separate interview, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez “for now, there is no such move” to prevent Estrada from apologizing.

“I don’t want to say something about what should and what shouldn’t be done. But he knows exactly the position of the President, and that should be enough guidance for everyone,” Hernandez said.

He added that the DFA is “focused” on the national government’s position.

“We have already exchanged perspectives on it. The President has talked to the chief executive of Hong Kong regarding that, and we would like to move forward by having high level consultations,” he said.

‘Moving forward’

Eight Hong Kong nationals died in the hostage crisis staged by a disgruntled Manila policeman in 2010. Victims and their families have demanded an official apology as well as compensation from the Philippine government.

“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 in an interview with Agence France-Presse. (READ: Lim liable for Luneta bloodbath – Robredo report.)

Estrada earlier said he will visit Hong Kong to apologize, and to ask Hong Kong to lift its travel ban on the Philippines. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)

Aquino, on the other hand, repeated his position against a government apology on Wednesday, October 23.

“Our position is, the act of one individual (who was) probably mentally unstable at that point in time, should not be construed as the act of the entire country and therefore, we have, again, we reiterated our utmost regret as to what has happened,” the President said in a forum with foreign correspondents.

Earlier in October, China challenged the Philippines to address the demands of Hong Kong nationals hostaged in Manila in 2010, after Aquino said he refused to apologize over the hostage crisis.

“We urge the Philippine government to pay high attention to the requirements and concerns of the families of the victims, take concrete and effective measures, and work out a proper solution as soon as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. (READ: China to PH: Don’t forget HK hostages.)

Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region (SAR) under a “one country, two systems” approach.

For the sake of Manila’s poor

During a housing activity in Tondo on Thursday, Estrada clarified that he would be apologizing in behalf of the city of Manila and not the entire country.

Tama lang na nangyari sa lungsod ng Maynila iyon kahit na hindi pa ako alkalde noon, humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa mga taga-Hong Kong sa insidenteng hindi dapat nangyari,” he said. (It’s only right that I apologize even if I wasn’t mayor then. I’m apologizing to Hong Kong nationals for something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.) 

His reasons: Manila’s economy, tourism, and Filipinos working on Hong Kong. Estrada added, “Baka mamaya hindi i-extend ang visa nila, pauwiin, mahihirapan din ang marami sa ating mahihirap.” (Their visas might not be extended, they might be sent home, give a hard time to the poor.) 

Dito nga sa Maynila pinakamaraming mahihirap, dadagdagan pa natin? Kaya kahit papaano maayos natin itong konting gusot na ito,” he said. (We have the most number of poor in Manila, do we want to add more? That’s why we want to fix this mess.) 

Erap had earlier expressed hopes that Manila’s Binondo would turn into a “world-class China town.” He said he wants to convince tourists from Hong Kong to return to Manila, and promised that they’d be safe so long as he’s mayor. – with reports from Bea Cupin and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com 

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.