Philip­pines skipped No­bel over China death ver­dict

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

MANILA: Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III said the Philip­pines did not send a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the No­bel Peace Prize cer­e­mony hon­or­ing a jailed Chi­nese dis­si­dent be­cause of his ef­forts to spare Filipinos on death row in China.

Aquino said in an in­ter­view pub­lished in the Philip­pine Sun­day Inquirer that his en­voy's ab­sence at the cer­e­mony in Nor­way on Fri­day did not mean his govern­ment is not cham­pi­oning democ­racy and hu­man rights.

"Our in­ter­est ( is) to ad­vance our cit­i­zens' needs first," he told the news­pa­per in his first com­ments since hu­man rights ac­tivists crit­i­cized the Philip­pines' de­ci­sion to boy­cott Fri­day's cer­e­mony with China and 16 other coun­tries.

China was out­raged at the award for democ­racy ad­vo­cate Liu Xiaobo, de­mo­niz­ing him in state me­dia and por­tray­ing the No­bel as a Western pro­pa­ganda tool to un­der­mine China. It sought to per­suade and pres­sure other coun­tries to not at­tend the cer­e­mony, and nearly all the boy­cotters were close China al­lies and trad­ing part­ners.

Chi­nese Am­bas­sador Liu Jian­chao has said his govern­ment did not pres­sure or in­flu­ence the Philip­pines.

Philip­pine For­eign Sec­re­tary Al­berto Ro­mulo also said that Manila's move should not be in­ter­preted as "tak­ing sides with China."

He told re­porters Thurs­day that his govern­ment re­mains "clear and con­sis­tent to its fight for hu­man rights," cit­ing its cam­paign in the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions for the re­lease of No­bel peace lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi, Myan­mar's pro-democ­racy leader. The mil­i­tary junta there re­leased her from a lengthy de­tain­ment last month.

Aquino said he al­ready sent a let­ter to the Chi­nese govern­ment seek­ing clemency for five Filipinos sen­tenced to death for drug traf­fick­ing.

The For­eign Af­fairs Depart­ment said the death sen­tences were un­der re­view by China's high­est court. If clemency is granted, the sen­tences could be com­muted to life im­pris­on­ment.

The Philip­pines has no death penalty, while China ex­e­cutes more pris­on­ers than any other coun­try and ap­plies cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment to a range of crimes.

Aquino also said that the Philip­pines was seek­ing a "clo­sure" with China over the killings of eight Hong Kong tourists dur­ing a hostage cri­sis Aug. 23 in Manila.

The po­lice re­sponse to the hostage-tak­ing was widely crit­i­cized as in­ept, and it dam­aged the coun­tries' diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Aquino said Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Bi­nay was ex­pected to meet with Chi­nese of­fi­cials next week to dis­cuss the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the hostage deaths. -Ap

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