[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Aquino answers media queries on the final report of the incident investigation and review committee regarding the Aug. 23 hostage-taking incident. WILLY PEREZ]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 20, 2010 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - President Aquino defended yesterday his decision to furnish the Chinese embassy a copy of the result of the investigation into the Aug. 23 hostage tragedy, saying it was out of courtesy aimed at “repairing relations” with China, which lost eight of its citizens in a botched rescue operation.

“We gave them (China) a copy to prevent any possibility of miscommunication or misunderstanding,” Mr. Aquino, in the US for a working visit, said in a text message.

He also clarified that he and his officials were the first to see the 83-page report submitted by the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) chaired by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Communications and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang said the gesture showed the administration’s sensitivity to China’s grief.

“If, as a country, we are secure about our place in the world and in relation to our neighbors, I don’t see why this simple act of courtesy can become an issue,” he told radio dzMM.“It’s an act of courtesy more than anything else. When someone dies, you want to inform the family first before you tell the whole world,” he added.

He also said the move was in keeping with the administration’s adherence to transparency. “We promised to share this report with the governments concerned,” Carandang added.“Let us look at the issues they are raising. How could the sovereignty have been violated if we ourselves decided to share it with China? It was not something imposed,” he said.

But Sen. Joker Arroyo scored the release of the report to the Chinese embassy.

“The obligation of the Philippine government is first to the Filipino people, not to everyone else,” Arroyo said as he criticized Mr. Aquino’s advisers for “tip-toeing” to China.

“Why is this government very sensitive to Hong Kong but they are not sensitive to the sentiment of the Filipino people?” he said earlier over radio dzBB.

“That report should be for us, it should be truthful so HK won’t have any complaints. (But the) way things are, it seems they want HK to have a first crack,” the senator said.“

What if the report is released to China and they complain about it? But that’s the truth to the investigators’ point of view,” he said. “Will they keep correcting us?”

Nothing wrong

Two congressmen, on the other hand, believed there was nothing wrong with the administration giving China a copy of the IIRC report.

“Critics should stop magnifying this issue because it is but natural to inform the victims’ families as a matter of courtesy,” Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said in a statement.

“There’s nothing wrong with that because we will see the report anyway, but I certainly agree that it would be insulting if everyone except the families of the victims became aware of what really happened during the hostage crisis,” he said.

Rep. Karlo Nograles of Davao City said the President’s decision to send a copy of the report to the Chinese embassy should be regarded as the “country’s sincere gesture of friendship towards China.”

“This shows the President’s sincerity in his heart that he was sorry for what happened with the victims. We, as a nation, should feel the same way.

I wonder why even some of his political allies are questioning his decision,” he said.

Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who was among the officials recommended for possible sanction in connection with the bloody hostage drama, said he was not surprised by the result of the IIRC probe.“However, we have to wait for the final report.

It was announced that it is not yet final,” Moreno said. Moreno said he has yet to see a copy of the report. “Normal circumstances dictate that all those involved should be given a copy,” Moreno said.

He stressed that he and the other officials performed their “lawful duty and moral obligation,” and that nine hostages were released due to their efforts.

“It must have been forgotten that we were able to save the lives of the nine hostages (who were released earlier),” Moreno said.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, meanwhile, declined to comment on the IIRC report.

De Lima silent

De Lima refused to reveal to lawmakers details of the report even under threat of being cited for contempt.“Without go-signal from the President, I cannot do that,” she told members of the House appropriations committee chaired by Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.When told by Minority Leader Edcel Lagman that she might be held in contempt for her refusal to talk, De Lima said: “So be it, your honor, if the contempt citation is warranted.”

Lagman said the justice secretary’s answers showed her loyalty to the President, for which she deserved appreciation from lawmakers.De Lima later told reporters that she would release the report as soon as she gets Mr. Aquino’s go-signal.She said that based on her conversations with the President last Friday, the chief executive “has all the intentions to make the report public.” – With Jess Diaz and Sandy Araneta

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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