Estrada apology too late, say Manila bus siege survivors

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:32pm

Survivors of the Manila bus tragedy have rejected an apology from the new mayor of the city for the shootings that left eight Hongkongers dead and vowed to press ahead with legal action.

Yik Siu-ling, whose lower jaw was shattered by a bullet, said Joseph Estrada's apology was insincere.

It has been three years and the Manila government has not done anything to compensate us
Yik Siu-ling, Manila bus tragedy survivor

"It has been three years and the Manila government has not done anything to compensate us," she said.

Estrada, a former president who took office in June, first mentioned he may apologise in an interview with SCMP's Post Magazine in July, and did so while speaking with Cable News. It was the first apology from the country since the shootings three years ago.

Survivors and relatives of victims have given the Philippine government until Friday to meet their demands - an apology, compensation, punishment for the officials responsible and improved tourist safety. If these are not met, they intend to sue the Philippine government in a Hong Kong court.

Estrada said: "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. We are sorry for that."

He said similar incidents would "never happen again" under his leadership, but cited legal reasons for not being able to promise compensation.

The Taiwanese government won an apology from Manila three months after a Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead by the Philippine coastguard. But Estrada, overthrown as president 12 years ago in a popular uprising, said the cases were different.

"The president is the commander, the chief of our military, the navy, the marines. That's why he apologised for it," Estrada said. "The police is under the directorship of the mayor."

Last year Aquino said he saw no reason to apologise but admitted the hostage crisis could have been handled better.

Estrada said he would have apologised sooner if he had been mayor when the tragedy happened.

A sacked policeman shot dead seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide on a hijacked bus before being shot dead in a bungled rescue in Manila's Rizal Park.

"As a mayor of the city, you should be on top of all this. You should direct everything. But unfortunately my predecessor [Alfredo Lim] didn't do that," Estrada said. "I would [have taken] full responsibility … I [would have apologised] because that was my fault."

Yik was also unconvinced by Estrada's explanation for why the president would not apologise.

"In both the Taiwan and hostage cases, it's people who represent the government who are at fault," she said.

Tse Chi-kin, whose younger brother, Masa Tse Ting-chunn, was killed, said: "It's inappropriate that a new guy just comes out and says he's sorry. We insist on our four demands."

He said an appropriate apology would at least require a formal letter, as in the Taiwan case.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor renewed the government's pledge to follow Manila's response to the families' and survivors' demands.