MANILA, Philippines – Hong Kong challenged the Philippines on Tuesday, February 18, to apologize not simply for the act of a desperate individual, but for the failure of local officials in handling a 2010 hostage crisis in Manila that left Chinese tourists dead.
Officials implicated in the hostage crisis include then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, then Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, and then National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa.
Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung, in effect, refuted a frequent argument by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in refusing to say sorry. Aquino said “the act of one individual…probably mentally unstable at that point in time, should not be construed as the act of the entire country.” (READ: DFA on Erap’s HK apology: Aquino’s stand prevails)
Leung however said: “The victims and their families are not demanding and have never demanded a personal apology from the Philippine president for the criminal act committed by an individual, as some have alleged. They are seeking an apology from the Philippine government for the failure and lapses of their officials in handling the rescue operation, during which 8 Hong Kong residents lost their lives and 7 others sustained injuries.”
Hong Kong’s leader said in a media briefing in Hong Kong: “In other words, they demand an apology that is consistent with the findings of the official investigation commissioned by the Philippine government.”
Leung said this nearly two weeks after Hong Kong implemented the “first phase of sanctions” on the Philippines over the hostage crisis.
In the recent sanction, China’s special administrative region cancelled the 14-day visa-free status for official and diplomatic Filipino passport holders. The Philippines, on the other hand, repeated its offer of “tokens of solidarity.”
Aquino didn’t punish Lim
On Tuesday, Leung didn’t specify the Philippine investigation he based his statement on. Previous reports, however, tag Lim, Puno, and Verzosa as among the 10 officials responsible.
In April 2013, Rappler reported that the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo recommended a one-month suspension for Lim over the hostage crisis.
Aquino, who is Lim’s long-time family friend and political ally, failed to act on this.
Before Robredo’s recommendations surfaced in the media, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism disclosed unpublished sections of a key report on the hostage-taking incident.
In 2010, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) found Lim, Puno, and Verzosa criminally and administratively liable.
Aquino eventually cleared Puno and Verzosa. For Lim, he only authorized the filing of administrative charges for “misconduct and simple neglect.”
‘Why implicate them?’
Citing unnamed sources, the PCIJ said Aquino reportedly complained about the IIRC report: “Napatapang ‘ata masyado ah. Bakit kasama pa sila Puno, Lim, at Verzosa?” (It’s too strongly worded. Why are we implicating Puno, Lim, and Verzosa?)
The President said “he had no problem, however, about filing suit against the other police officers named in the report,” according to the PCIJ.
This report hounds the Philippine government to this day.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leader warned the Philippines: “Our position has been clear and consistent. The door to further discussions between the two sides remains open and the ball is in the Philippines’ court.”
Leung continued, “I urge the Philippine government to demonstrate sincerity and resolve in bringing the discussion to a satisfactory conclusion so that we do not have to implement further sanctions.” – Rappler.com