MANILA - A concentrated effort by local and foreign businessmen convinced Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to apologize to the Hong Kong government for the August 2010 Manila hostage crisis, his vice-mayor said Thursday.
Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno said Estrada's decision is a local government initiative and did not have the go-ahead of Malacañang. Estrada was not the mayor of Manila when the hostage crisis happened.
"He wanted to close that chapter in history. This is also one of the steps to bring back tourists," Moreno said, noting that group tours to Manila have been disallowed by the Hong Kong government.
Moreno said businessmen from Binondo, Manila, mainland China and Hong Kong reached out to the Manila city government about issuing the apology.
"It was a concerted effort. Mayor Erap listened and he wanted to just be humble for the good of the people of Manila," he said.
"Kami po ni Pangulong-Mayor Erap ay nag-usap at humingi po siya ng awtoridad sa konseho ng Maynila kaya po nung nakaraang Martes nagkaroon kami ng special session at binigyan po namin through a resolution authorizing the mayor to extend an apology to the Hong Kong government as a local government unit," he added.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier reiterated he will not apologize to the Hong Kong government for the August 2010 hostage crisis that led to the death of eight Hong Kong tourists.
On Wednesday, he took exception to statements he did not handle the Manila hostage crisis seriously, noting all appropriate charges have been filed.
The President said the act of one hostage-taker should not be construed as the act of the entire nation.
He said the Deputy Ombudsman was disciplined for not taking action on the case of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza.
Aquino also explained why former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim was not punished, saying the ground commander was the one at fault for the botched rescue attempt.
During the interview, Moreno said the Manila city government respects the decision of President Aquino not to apologize for the hostage crisis.
He said the city council unanimously approved the resolution for Estrada to formally apologize to Beijing and Hong Kong for the incident. He said local officials understand that coming to grips about the incident has not been easy especially for the families of the victims.
"This was not the desire of President Aquino or the people in government. This thing can happen in any part of the world. It has happened in India, China, Hong Kong and many parts of the world...We just hope that humbling ourselves will lead to forgiveness," he said.
He said that based on the government's own investigation, there were lapses in the government's own response to the incident.
"We cannot deny and we cannot hide (that there were lapses) because the whole world saw it. Admitting that there were lapses is the first step to solving these incidents in the past. It has to serve as a lesson to the government to be careful and ready for these kinds of situations," he said.