MANILA, Philippines – The representative of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada will have to negotiate harder after the Hong Kong government, as well as hostage victims, declined to accept Manila’s apology over the 2010 hostage crisis.
Hong Kong said it wants Manila not only to say sorry, but to also compensate the victims, hold officials accountable for “mishandling” the incident, and “ensure the safety of tourists.”
On Thursday, October 31, it belied the claim of Manila Councilor Bernardito Ang that Hong Kong has accepted his city’s apology over the incident that killed 8.
Ang told ABS-CBN News on Thursday: “They are very happy na very sincere ‘yung ginawa ng city government in passing a resolution and apologizing. Basically, tinatanggap nila yung apology.” (They are very happy that the city government was very sincere in passing a resolution and apologizing. Basically, they accepted the apology.)
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau denounced the statement as “incorrect.”
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the representatives of the injured and families of the deceased have not reached a consensus on an apology with Mr Bernardito Ang, the representative of the City of Manila. We will request a clarification from Mr Ang,” the bureau said.
Ang flew to Hong Kong after the Manila city council made an apology through a resolution.
Estrada, a former president, refused to follow the position of the sitting president, Benigno Aquino III, not to apologize to Hong Kong for the hostage-taking incident. (READ: Erap to issue formal apology for 2010 hostage-taking.)
The August 2010 hostage crisis, which happened barely two months after President Aquino assumed office, led to the death of 8 tourists from Hong Kong and the hostage taker, a dismissed Manila cop. The mayor at the time, Alfredo Lim, is a longtime friend and ally of the Aquino family.
On Thursday evening, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau, representatives of the victims’ families, and Ang released a joint statement that the parties “agreed to exchange further views.”
“The representatives of victims’ families and Mr Ang exchanged opinions and considered possible options on how the demands of the victims could be met,” the parties said.
“All parties agreed to further exchange views on the matters, with the goal of finding a satisfactory solution to the 4 demands made by the victims and family members as a package,” they added.
The Security Bureau, the victims’ families, and Ang added that Thursday’s discussions “were useful and helpful to narrow the differences.”
“As further discussions will be necessary, all parties agreed to keep the dialogue open. To avoid speculation and not to add unnecessary pressure to victims and family members, all 3 parties re-affirmed the need, and have agreed, to not disclose details of the discussions at this stage,” they said.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security, Lai Tung-kwok, earlier enumerated the following demands from the people of Hong Kong as well as the hostage victims and their relatives:
“holding officials accountable for the mishandling of the incident”; and
“devising and implementing effective measures to ensure the safety of tourists”
Hong Kong lawmaker James To Kun-sun said compensation is one of the most contentious issues in the negotiations.
“The amounts differ by a wide gap,” To said in an interview quoted by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday, October 30.
The SCMP cited local media reports that Ang proposed a HK$7.8 million (P43.7 million) compensation. It noted that earlier, Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno promised up to HK$20 million (P112 million).
On holding officials accountable, documents obtained by Rappler showed that Lim, Estrada’s immediate predecessor as Manila mayor, was found “administratively liable for simple neglect of duty” over the hostage crisis.
Aquino however sat on the recommendation made by the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo. (READ: Lim liable for Luneta bloodbath – Robredo report.)
The Palace, for its part, dismissed the decision to apologize to Hong Kong as a “personal initiative” on the part of Estrada.
Aquino stressed that the incident was the act of one individual who was “probably mentally unstable,” and does not merit an official apology.
Estrada, on the other hand, said he is apologizing on behalf of the city of Manila, not the Philippine government. He also said the apology will benefit Manila’s economy and tourism, as well as overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong who might suffer a backlash.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), for its part, earlier said it is clear whose words prevail. (READ: DFA on Erap’s HK apology: Aquino’s stand prevails.)
“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 said:“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.” – Rappler.com
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