PNoy stands pat: no apology on hostage crisis

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2013 03:10 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2013 11:10 PM

'Legal backlash' considered

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Aquino won't follow the lead of the city government of Manila which has decided to issue an official apology to the people of Hong Kong over the 2010 Manila hostage crisis.

In a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Aquino reiterated his position that the nation should not apologize for the act of a hostage taker.

He said he has again offered regrets over the incident when he met with Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung at the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali.

"Our position is the act of one individual who was probably mentally unstable at that point in time should not be construed as the act of the entire country. And that, again, we reiterated our utmost regret as to what has happened. We offered again our condolences to all who have suffered and died. But there are limitations… even [from] a legalistic point of view how far we can go," Aquino said.

"I can't say we have a meeting of the minds but both of us understood each other's positions."

Aquino said that he considered the possible "legal backlash" of offering an official apology, explaining that doing so would mean admitting that the state was at fault and should give reparation for the deaths and injury that the incident has caused.

"Legal backlash? Yes, that has to be a consideration. If we accept that it was in effect an act of the state then the idea also of compensation--or reparation perhaps is the better legal term--comes into the picture. But at the end of the day, we submit the act of one individual should not be construed as the act of the entire nation. And if I express my apologies, then I am apologizing on behalf of the sin visited by the entire country on these Hong Kong residents. And I don't think that is appropriate at this point in time," Aquino said.

He pointed out that that while the Philippine government could not give compensation, the local business community here has given a "solidarity fund" to the victims and their families.

"When you say compensation, again, there is wrong visited by the state on these individuals. That it was policy to harm them and that is not correct. We encouraged the local businessmen who offered to show our assistance and the country's assistance in I believe an appropriate manner," he said.

Aquino came to the defense of then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, a political ally, who was not punished by the Palace despite a recommendation by the Incident Investigation and Review Committee to hold him liable along with then Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno and then Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa.

The Palace downgraded the recommendation on Lim and cleared him of liability.

Aquino instead faulted the ground commander at that time, Manila Police District Director Rodolfo Magtibay, for ignoring instructions to tap the elite police unit for the rescue mission.

"At the end of the say, who was responsible? There was a ground commander who was given specific instructions for instance as to what units to use. He decided to use a less capable unit. He presumed and assumed too many things and it was his decision that shall we say hampered the better prepared team from effecting the rescue mission at that point in time," he said.

Aquino said that "all appropriate charges" have been filed against those responsible including sanctioning the Deputy Ombudsman who did not address the grievances of the hostage taker, police senior inspector Rolando Mendoza, which led him to take the Hong Kong tourists hostage to catch attention.

He said that the National Police Commission is considering increasing penalties "for several policemen involved."

Meantime, he said that he is not at liberty to discuss efforts to convince Hong Kong to lift its black travel advisory on the Philippines which has been imposed immediately after the hostage crisis.