Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco Domagoso has expressed sadness over the way Hong Kong has treated him in the aftermath of the botched bus hostage rescue three years ago.
"Just between us, don't I deserve a 'thank you' by saving eight lives?" Domagoso asked the Sunday Morning Post.
He disclosed for the first time that he - and not Manila's mayor at the time, Alfredo Lim - was calling the shots during the day-long hostage-taking of a tourist bus by dismissed police officer Rolando Mendoza.
"From morning to 6pm [of August 23, 2010] I was the one handling the entire incident. During the daytime I was the highest civilian authority … not mayor Lim, at that time. When Mendoza asked for food and gas, I asked for hostages in return," Domagoso said.
"The Chinese embassy gave me a specific request - the old man, 80 years old. I got the old man. He was released.
"When you look at the timeline, I've been saving lives."
And yet, he said, Hong Kong sent him an "invitation" to appear and answer questions after the Incident Investigation Review Committee found him liable for simple negligence for abandoning his post "at the height of the hostage crisis".
A subsequent palace (government) review, however, tossed out the IIRC charge.
Domagoso said he did not abandon his post, but was relieved by Lim.
Asked what could have been done to avert the tragedy, in which eight hostages and Mendoza died, he replied: "Honestly, if the super friends did not take over at 6pm, you know, Batman, Superman - mayor Lim and the generals …"
Domagoso played a key role in Lim's electoral defeat this May by switching to be Joseph Estrada's running mate. Soon after becoming mayor of Manila, Estrada told the Post he would personally apologise to Hong Kong.
On Friday Estrada said his planned trip to Hong Kong to deliver a formal apology would be delayed. He declined to say when he would visit. But he said the postponement had nothing to do with the delay in negotiations with the victims and relatives.
He also denied that a Hong Kong casino investor was among those donating money for the victims' compensation. "No, the money will be all from the Philippines," he said.
He also said the hostage victims' demand to punish Lim for the botched rescue had been fulfilled by his election defeat.