MANILA - There was no sorry, just sorrowful regrets. There was no compensation, just "tokens of solidarity" and a form of quit claim. And for the 21 families of the Manila hostage-taking victims, it will never be over.
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras clarified these Thursday in Malacañang after the Philippines and Hong Kong ended their diplomatic row over the demand for a public apology from Manila over the death of Hong Kong tourists in the Manila hostage crisis in 2010.
“Did I apologize for President Aquino? 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 never said… I have no authority to say ‘I am sorry in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines,'" Almendras explained. "But we made sure that we address the issues po.And 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."
Almendras said he had no authority to issue an apology in behalf of President Aquino or the country. It was Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima who expressed "sorrowful regrets and sympathy" to the survivors and relatives of those who died during the hostage-taking incident.
“Personally, I was not who signed the letter. There is a letter signed by Purisima in behalf of the police. It’s a matter of time before we can show it to you. Remember that you only have five families there yesterday. The balance of the 21 are going to be receiving those letters in the next few days so I need to be sensitive to that," he said.
He said Purisima used the words "sorrowful regret and sympathy."
"If you take the words in a technical context, they may not be enough but if you put them in the perspective of all the other things that happened, that’s how it became more acceptable," he said.
The details of the settlement are now between the Hong Kong government and the families.
"In general po, based on the meeting of the Chief Executive with the representatives of the family yesterday after our meeting with the families, okay na. Nagkasundo na, ayos na. Small details na lang po ‘yung inaayos nila," Almendras said.
The tokens are still being distributed. "Most of them I believe, some today, some tomorrow. Hopefully, within the week."
The tokens were raised from the private sector in Hong Kong and Philippines. "It is very broad sense of lists. Even from Hong Kong there… so hindi lang ang Pilipinas ang nagbigay. Not a single peso or dollar—Hong Kong dollar—came from either Hong Kong government or the Philippine government. Businessmen, ordinary citizens, people who cared, even people who were close to certain people in organizations.The general motivation is to bring this to a closure."
Almendras refused to confirm an amount amid reports in Hong Kong that the estimate is that the tokens are in the range of 20 million Hong Kong dollars or P115 million. "That is not accurate," he said.
"I signed an [non-disclosure] agreement and I promised family members I cannot (reveal amount). I’m sorry. More than just signing an agreement, I promised the family members. I’m sorry I need to stand my point. I made a personal promise," he said.
"Maraming sensitivity. Pasensya na po talaga because... I also need to keep my promise to the family members po," he explained.
"There are agreements, and I am sorry I cannot disclose them, because about 70 percent of all the documents that were put together were agreed to be kept confidential, not because we did anything illegal," he said. "The reason why these are kept confidential is because of the sensitivity of the families. Out of respect for the families."
Almendras also said steps were taken to put a legal end to the matter. He, however, refused to say if these were quit claims.