Philippine senators urge Aquino to apologise over Manila bus tragedy
Opposition lawmakers say there is nothing wrong in apologising as they face need to apply for visas for Hong Kong travel from Wednesday
Three Philippine opposition lawmakers have urged President Benigno Aquino to apologise for the bungled Manila bus hostage rescue in which eight Hong Kong people died, in response to visa sanctions that would affect them.
From Wednesday, Hong Kong will cancel 14-day visa-free arrangements for Philippine officials and diplomatic passport holders - including their spouses and children, who are also extended such passports. The move is in retaliation for the country's failure to respond to all of the city's demands after the bus siege.
Those affected will have to obtain visas before flying to Hong Kong, a popular weekend getaway for wealthy Filipinos.
On August 23, 2010, sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza took 22 Hong Kong tourists and three Filipinos captive on their coach. He shot dead seven of the tourists and their guide before being killed in a bungled rescue.
Senator Vicente Sotto, who, according to Philippine showbiz website PEP was last seen at Chek Lap Kok airport on August 26, said: "There is nothing wrong in apologising for a situation that we were unable to control."
Sotto put Aquino's refusal to apologise down to pride on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which advises the president on the issue.
And fellow United Nationalist Alliance member Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito had another idea to resolve the situation. "If Aquino is reluctant to say sorry now, may I suggest instead that we send an official emissary to Hong Kong to resolve the issue?"
Ejercito, son of Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, said that given the Manila city government had already issued a formal apology to Hong Kong, but it was still seeking an apology from the national government, Aquino's No2 should step in. "[VicePresident Jejomar] Binay is the right man for this job," Ejercito said.
Binay, who has said he will run for the presidency in 2016, could not be reached for comment.
Opposition senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jnr also spoke out on the issue. "The refusal to apologise I find hard to understand," he told the Philippine Star newspaper.
The presidential palace has yet to respond to the three senators' statements. But foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez was standing firm.
"[The apology demand is] a total renegotiation … which the Philippines, as a sovereign nation, is not prepared to consider. Our nation has already expressed its deepest regret and condolences over the incident and we are preparing to reiterate this."
On social media, Filipinos supported Aquino's stance, and many were also pleased about Hong Kong's visa sanctions.
"The senators can no longer go shopping. Thank you, Hong Kong," one post said.