Former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim said yesterday that Hong Kong's visa restrictions on the Philippines were "baseless" and he had nothing to apologise for over the botched rescue of Hongkongers taken hostage by a rogue policeman in 2010.
"If you ask me personally, they have no basis in truth or in fact in what they are doing," Lim, who was mayor at the time of the incident, told radio station DZMM when asked his reaction to Hong Kong's requirement that official and diplomatic passport holders obtain entry and transit visas.
"If they don't want us going to Hong Kong, then let's not go there. Who's the loser? They are," he said.
He said he was not advocating retaliation for the sanctions "unless they hurt our countrymen there".
He noted that China had not apologised when Filipino nationals were killed there in two separate incidents.
Lim's refusal to apologise contradicted an earlier remark in which he said he had already apologised during a memorial mass a week after the tragedy.
"I said we regretted what happened because nobody wants that to happen," he recalled.
Lim in fact did not speak publicly during the mass.
In an interview afterwards, he brushed off criticism that he had triggered the shooting spree that began when gunman Rolando Mendoza saw his brother, Gregorio, being manhandled by the police. "I said to [the police to] handcuff him, not to arrest him," he said at the time.
Yesterday, Lim insisted he did nothing wrong.
"I'm already old," he said. "Even to a janitor I will apologise if I did wrong. But even if the person is high up, even if he's Judas, if I did no wrong, why would I apologise to them?"
He said he was not in charge of police ground operations during the hostage crisis.
But a probe led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima recommended that Lim be charged with "dereliction of duty and gross negligence" for, among other things, "assuming the authority of the on-scene commander".
A subsequent review by the office of the president downgraded the charge to "simple neglect and misconduct in office".
Lim lost the mayoralty last year.