PHILIPPINES: The AHRC’s comments on Manila mayor’s apology to 2010 bus hostage victims 

(Hong Kong, April 23, 2014) Yesterday, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and his delegation arrived in Hong Kong reportedly to offer an apology on behalf of the City of Manila to the victims and families of the 2010 Manila bus hostage incident.

In August 2010, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had also expressed its concerns and raised questions on the tragic end of the attempt by the police to rescue Hong Kong tourists held hostage. Eight Hong Kong nationals were killed.

For nearly four years, the families of the victims have been demanding for a formal apology from the Philippines government. Though the Philippines government has refused to give formal apology; however, they did provide compensation and financial assistance to victims and their families.

Mayor Estrada, former Philippine President, who claims his actions were due to his concerns to all the Filipinos, notably domestic workers, whom he reportedly claimed would face sanctions, like non renewal of their working visa due to the Philippines government refusal to issue a formal apology, travelled to Hong Kong with a  resolution from the City Council   offering an apology.

Before assuming public office as the Mayor of Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, Estrada had been impeached, ousted from power in 2001 in a revolt called EDSA Dos, and convicted for plunder.

Estrada was released after  he was granted presidential pardon. He ran for mayor in May 2013 and won.

Below is the transcript of the interview with a Filipino by Pinoy Fuse, a Filipino digital radio program in Hong Kong, yesterday hosted by the DBC. The interview can be listened to at

Episode 2014-04-22 Pinoy Fuse 2 (time code: 17:57-29:00)


Pinoy Fuse: We will be speaking with Danilo Reyes, deputy director of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). He will share his thoughts with us on the Philippine delegation visit to Hong Kong. Good evening.

Danilo: Good evening to all your listeners.

Pinoy Fuse: Mr. Reyes would you please share with us your thoughts on the visit of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada with regards to the Manila bus hostage.

Danilo: If we look at it as gesture from government officials from the Philippines, what they did is long overdue. They should have  done it before. But anyway, at least they are doing something that shows sincerity to the families of the victims of the Manila bus hostage.

To some extent, it has contribution, notably when it comes to calming down some perception by some Hong Kong people who often displays racial hatred, and those who show xenophobic attitudes.

Pinoy Fuse: Am I sensing that you are for (the apology that Estrada is giving) and do not agree on the stand of the Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (not to issue an apology from the Philippine government).

Danilo: The demand for apology is very complex. If we look at it from a moral perspective, as a human being, if we did something wrong to others, we agree that we have to say sorry.

But when it comes to saying sorry, from the government, who has also responsibility to its own people, and to identify as to who has committed the wrong (for the deaths of eight Hong Kong nationals), that is where the complication happens.

When you (the State) say sorry, it entails responsibility. So, it needs to be clear first as to who did something wrong. For example, in the case of Mendoza (the bus driver who shot at the tourists inside the bus while the bus was surrounded by the police) whether what he did was sanctioned by the State; or, was it a policy of the State? It is here where there is difference between saying sorry from a moral perspective from saying sorry from the perspective of the State with legal obligations.

If the State says sorry, you have to do something, like compensation. The Philippine did something but not in line with formal apology.

For example, during the World War II, for Filipinas who were turned into comfort women by the Japanese soldiers, the Filipinos and the victims also demanded for formal apology from the Japanese government.

If you look at it now, while the Japanese also showed some gestures, like allocation of foreign aid through JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency); they built infrastructures in the Philippines; they sponsored scholars, but they have yet to give a formal apology as a State because a State apology entails more legal responsibilities. (Note: The Kono statement in 1993 is largely considered as a statement of remorse, not as a formal State apology)

The gesture of Erap, it is easy for him because he is not the head of State. He is a mayor of a city and the apology is from the City Council of Manila through a resolution. It is more of local status.

Pinoy Fuse: What are your concerns on this as a Hong Kong resident, and your concerns also for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), like on the implications of this issue.

Danilo: The visit by Erap and his delegates has some contribution, and to some extent will provide some sort of protection to all Filipinos living and working in Hong Kong—like from hatred from some local Hong Kong people. Also, the gestures by government officials that as Filipinos, if we did something wrong, we do say sorry.

On this context, it has contribution.

But based on the discussion I had with some of the families of the victims of the Manila bus hostage tragedy I  spoke with,  they  have a different demand (Erap’s apology is not in line with their demands). They are demanding for a State apology.

Even me, I am not resolved  yet whether or not the government should give (formal State apology), but I do agree that there has to be some gestures of compassion, like providing compensation, financial support.

Pinoy Fuse: You also mentioned about the political realities in Hong Kong. We were discussing about that earlier here, too.

Danilo: In Hong Kong, the Chief Executive is not elected through a universal suffrage. It means (he took office) in an undemocratic process. For the past few months, CY Leung is trying to boost his popularity among the Hong Kong people, especially those who are sympathetic to Mainland China. And to some extent, he succeeded. It explains why they have mustered a support from the Legislative Council (LegCo) to impose sanctions, like visa restrictions on Filipino government officials.

It was borne out of emotional support, outburst that for many years the Philippine government did nothing. So, it’s a normal reaction. But based on the discussion I have had with the families of the victims, if indeed the Hong Kong government itself, is determined from the very beginning they should have not waited for many years as well.

Pinoy Fuse: I see. That is one point. Anyway, even the families of the victims also indicated that even the Hong Kong government lacks effort, and then they seek help to the Chinese government.

Danilo: Yes, they also went to the Chinese Embassy in Manila. I mean we should not forget that there are political interests involved/ at stake regarding the actions of (the CE and the Hong Kong government) on this.

And even for Erap himself. If you look at it, during his term as Philippine President, when he declared an ‘All Out War’ against the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in Mindanao, it was State sanctioned. There were so many civilians who were killed, displaced; so, has Erap thought of saying sorry?

For all the actions and orders that he has given, as a (former) commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, maybe we should ask him if he thought of apologizing on that as well.

And, also if you look at the (Manila bus hostage case) in terms of compensation, in terms of relief and remedy that the victims and their families have availed so far, unfortunately if you look at the victims of violence in the Philippines as well, like bomb attacks, kidnapping, both victims involving foreigner or Filipinos, as we speak, they (Manila bus victims) are far better treated.

Meaning, they have more compensation, more attention. We are not just comparing. But when it comes to other government and other people outside the Philippines, demanding protection from the government, I think we should also think about how well are our own people protected.

You can’t give something else that even your own people don’t have.

In fact, in the Philippines there are many cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, those detained on false charges, they should also be given compensation according to law. This should also be a reflection on us (Filipinos) on how our own government think of our own protection as a citizen, in the same way that others also have.

Pinoy Fuse: Ok, that’s a good point. I just want to know your sentiment on the visa sanctions, are you worried on whatever the impact of these  sanctions  is, notably  to the OFWs? That is what Estrada said of his concern, that the visas of the foreign domestic workers may not be extended.

Danilo: Anyway, we should know that Hong Kong employers need us. Just imagine what will happen if all the domestic workers would no longer be here in Hong Kong. Of course, we cannot predict whether the Hong Kong government will do drastic actions or not, but I am confident that they will think about it first, because the economy of Hong Kong also relies on the services provided by domestic workers.

They would probably do something, but the perceptions that all of the working visas of domestic workers will not be renewed, I don’t think it will be serious as that.

Pinoy Fuse: The sanctions that they imposed on Philippines diplomats, it was done on short notice. They did it overnight. So there were many concerns regarding that. But we also understand that Hong Kong is an economic more than a political city.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Danilo: Thank you also for this opportunity.

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Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-005-2014
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system, Rule of law, Torture,