Erap to issue formal apology for 2010 hostage-taking

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III says it isn't needed, but Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada – himself a former president – will still send a formal apology to the Hong Kong government for the 2010 hostage-taking incident in the city of Manila that killed 8 tourists.

The apology comes in the form of a resolution recently passed by the Manila city council.

Earlier, Estrada said he would visit Hong Kong to apologize for the incident. The newly-elected Manila mayor said he would also ask them to lift their standing travel ban on the Philippines.

A formal apology has been one of the long-standing demands by the Hong Kong government over the deaths of their citizens who were visiting Manila in August 2010. They were taken hostage by a disgruntled Filipino policeman, who was also shot dead by responding officers.

"There is an admission of a bungled operation. The city of Manila is being more candid now," Luch Gempis, secretary of the Manila city council, told Agence France-Presse.

Philippine authorities have acknowledged that police and other authorities mishandled the hostage situation.

But President Aquino has refused to make a formal apology on behalf of the national government, insisting the deaths were primarily caused by the actions of the hostage taker.

The lack of an apology and a refusal to pay compensation have caused deep tensions between Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Aquino reiterated on Wednesday, October 23, that no national government apology would be given.

"The act of one individual should not be construed as the act of the entire nation," the President said, adding a formal apology could have legal ramifications that would lead to compensation.

Gempis denied the apology was intended to embarrass Aquino, who is a political rival of Estrada's.

He also insisted it was not targeted at Alfredo Lim, another rival who was mayor of Manila when the hostage incident took place. (READ: Lim liable for Luneta bloodbath – Robredo report)

"The principal purpose of the resolution is to end the controversy, to have closure," Gempis said.

Victims and family members of those who died during the hostage taking crisis wanted to sue the Philippines over the incident, but were told by a Hong Kong court that they could not press charges against a sovereign state.

They do, however, have the option to sue several incumbent and former government officials, including Lim and incumbent Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.

But Moreno said that he has already been found clear of any liability connected to the incident. – with reports from Agence France-Presse and Bea Cupin/Rappler.com