Erap apologizes to HK bus hostage victims: report
HONG KONG - The mayor of Manila has apologized to victims and relatives of a botched attempt by the Philippine capital's police force to end a bus hijacking that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead almost three years ago, Hong Kong's Cable TV reported Tuesday.
"On behalf of the people of Manila, as the mayor, I want to say: we are sorry for the incident, for what happened to the victims," Mayor Joseph Estrada said in an exclusive interview. "As a promise, that will never happen again under my incumbency as mayor."
On Aug. 23, 2010, disgruntled former police officer Rolando Mendoza seized a tour bus in central Manila with 25 people aboard, including 21 people from Hong Kong, in a bid to seek reinstatement.
After lengthy negotiations, Mendoza opened fire with an M-16 rifle, killing the eight Hong Kong tourists and injuring seven others. He was later shot dead by police after a bungled police assault on the bus.
The victims' family members have demanded apologies and compensation from the Philippine government and punishment of responsible officials, including then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, who was accused of neglect and misconduct while overseeing the hostage rescue operation.
Lim as well as President Benigno Aquino denied any wrongdoing. The president said his government cannot issue an apology for the act of one man, saying that doing so would not be right.
"As a mayor of the city, you should be on top of all this, you should direct everything. But unfortunately, my predecessor (Lim), did not do that," said Estrada, an actor turned politician who served as president between 1998 and 2001.
"The apology is empty," Tse Chi-hang, brother of one of the Hong Kong people killed, told Cable TV. The survivors are also disappointed at the Hong Kong government for failing to force action from the Philippines and are planning to sue Manila if their demands are not met by Friday, the three-year deadline to file a civil case.
"The government has for many times contacted the Philippine government in the past three years, and the central government is also being supportive of our work," Hong Kong's Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam said. "The Security Bureau, and Secretary Lai Tung-kwok, will use every channel to continue to follow up (with Manila) on the victims' demands and hope for a more proper response."
A "black" travel warning for the Philippines issued by the Hong Kong government after the shooting remains in place despite repeated appeals by Manila to remove it.