MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III admitted the country did not send a delegate to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honoring a Chinese democracy activist for the sake of 5 Filipinos on China’s death row.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aquino said “our interest [is] to advance our citizens’ needs first.”
Human rights activists lambasted the Aquino administration for boycotting the awards ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. They said such action is very disappointing considering the country’s history in fighting for democracy.
The Philippines is not alone, however. Sixteen others boycotted the ceremony supposedly due to pressures from China.
Aquino stressed the government remains “committed to human rights.”
He said it just does not want to put at risk the efforts done so far for the 5 Filipinos who had been sentenced to death for acting as drug mules. The Filipinos – 1 male and 4 females – are detained in Beijing.
The President noted he had already sent a letter to China asking for clemency for the 5 Filipinos.
Aquino also said the country is aiming for a “closure” with China over the August 23 hostage incident, where 8 Hong Kong residents died.
The hostage crisis has caused diplomatic strains between the 2 nations. The Hong Kong government has voiced out its dismay over the “watered down” penalties that those involved have received.
He also said he was concerned for the safety of the Filipinos who may be caught in the tension between North and South Korea.
China earlier offered to mediate between the 2 Korean peninsulas. China is an ally of North Korea.