[PHOTO - MANILA. Relatives and a survivor in the botched bus hostage drama in Manila last year, hold incense during a Buddhist ceremony to mark the first anniversary at the site Tuesday at the Rizal Park in Manila.(AP)]

MANILA, AUGUST 25, 2011 (SUNSTAR) By Jill Beltran - President Benigno Aquino III has expressed regret for the deaths of eight Hong Kong hostages who were killed in a botched police rescue last year but is rejecting the families' call for a formal apology.

Aquino said the lone gunman, a dismissed police officer, and not the state is to be blamed for the tragedy. "By the same token that some of our citizens have been affected elsewhere in the world, we don't blame the entire population."

He compared the incident to last month's attack by a "deranged gunman" who killed 77 people in Norway.

He said on the anniversary of the hostage-taking Tuesday that an apology connotes that the state harmed the tourists, which he said is not correct.

The tourists were hijacked by a dismissed policeman. Hours of unsuccessful negotiations turned bloody when he opened fire, prompting police to chaotically storm their bus. He was killed by a police sniper.

Aquino said the Philippine government has taken steps to address the needs of the victims of the Manila hostage crisis and to help them move on from the tragedy.

"We have tried to assist them to overcome this tragedy...Both public and private concerns of this country have really tried to assist them in their moving on," he said in an ambush interview after he inspected the newly-acquired BRP Gregorio del Pilar warship at the Pier 13 in South Harbor, Manila.

Aquino insisted that the government has already issued a public apology and has provided reasonable compensation to the victims' families and survivors.

In a meeting with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday, the victims' families insisted that they have not received justice from the Philippine government and sought a formal apology and financial compensation.

Several survivors and relatives of the bloody hostage crisis on August 23, 2010 held a simple Buddhist ritual at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, where the tragedy took place.

They flew to Manila Sunday night to commemorate the hostage crisis which killed eight Hong Kong tourists, including the hostage taker dismissed senior officer Rolando Mendoza.

"I think we have accomplished the two (demands) but the question is their definition," said Aquino. "We sympathized and we continue to sympathize with them. We really wish it did not happen. We hope we had performed better at that point in time."

Aquino said while the government understands the feelings of the families, he hoped that they will be able to understand also the reforms that the administration are doing to improve security and crisis measures.

He also hoped that the survivors and the families would learn to move on, noting that no one wanted the incident to take place.

The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, supported the appeal of the President of moving on saying that everyone should be at peace and "move forward."

Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop on Tuesday urged the Aquino administration to fulfill its promise and hold accountable those liable for the bungled rescue of the victims in the 11-hour hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

Bringing those liable to the bar of justice would be the best apology for the victims and survivors, Manila auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said in a separate phone interview. "Hold accountable those who are accountable," he said in Filipino. (With AP/AMN/Sunnex)


LTFRB chairman files his resignationBy GABRIEL S. MABUTAS August 23, 2011, 2:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Nelson Laluces has resigned his post, an LTFRB official confirmed Tuesday.

LTFRB member Manuel Iway said the chairman had resigned to give Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) Secretary Mar Roxas a free hand to get people he wants to work with.

“As far as I know, that’s the reason he resigned. He wants to give the secretary a free hand to get people of his choice at the DoTC,” Iway told Manila Bulletin.

He said that although Roxas had just accepted Laluces’s resignation, it has been on his table as early as Wednesday last week.

Iway said Roxas called Laluces Monday to inform him that he had already picked a replacement for him, and that President Benigno S. Aquino III is already aware of it.

Iway clarified though that Laluces’s resignation does not take effect immediately to pave the way for a smooth leadership transition at the LTFRB.

Laluces, he said, would continue performing his functions as chairman until his replacement assumes his post.

He said officials had already been informed of Laluces’s resignation a day after it was tendered.

“Last Thursday, the chairman tendered a farewell party to inform the regional directors of his resignation,” he said.

Laluces has been one of the team players of Roxas’s predecessor, former DoTC Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus who resigned last June. The four undersecretaries who were brought along by De Jesus to the DoTC also quit their posts later to give Roxas, then incoming DoTC secretary, a free hand to choose the people he wants to work with.

But the Palace stressed that it has nothing to do with the resignation of Laluces.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that Laluces resigned to give Roxas free hand to choose his subordinates.

“The statement of Chairman Laluces is pretty straightforward,” Lacierda said. “He wants to give Secretary Mar Roxas a free hand in selecting his own people.” (with a report from Madel Sabater)


Statement of Secretary Mar Roxas on the resignation of LTFRB Chairman Laluces, August 23, 2011

Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas:
On the resignation of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Nelson Laluces

[Released on August 23, 2011]

Today, we have formally received the courtesy resignation of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Nelson Laluces.

Since it is courtesy resignation, Chairman Laluces will continue to head and manage the operations of the LTFRB to ensure the continuous services of the agency. I thank him for his graciousness.

It is worth noting that Mr. Laluces and all other heads of line agencies and attached agencies—myself included—work at the pleasure of the President.

The gesture of Mr. Laluces is proof that the current crop of presidential appointees have nothing but pure service in mind. We can only admire his values and his work ethic.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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