US envoy Harry Thomas Jr. eats humble pie: Sorry for sex tourism dig

US Ambassador Harry Thomas. AFP FILE PHOTO

US Ambassador Harry Thomas. AFP FILE PHOTO

Someone once said you should choose your words carefully because one day you may have to eat them.  US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. is eating, if not words, perhaps, humble pie.

Hammered in the media for saying that 40 percent of male tourists come to the Philippines for sex, the American envoy later said in published statements that he would not apologize for his remarks.

On Friday, in a text message to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Thomas seemed to have changed his mind.

“Sir, thanks again for taking time to meet with me twice this week,” Thomas said in his message, which Del Rosario forwarded to the Inquirer. “I am sending you a response expressing regret for my comments. I should not have used the 40 percent statistic without the ability to back it up. I regret any harm that I may have caused.”

Del Rosario, who is on an official trip to Vietnam, described Thomas’ message to him as “very straightforward.”

Seeking closure

Clearly, Thomas was “looking for closure” to the controversy, Del Rosario told the Inquirer.

Del Rosario at the same time noted that the US diplomat “has been closely working with the Philippine government in addressing the grave challenge of human trafficking in our country.”

Malacañang the other day said it was “concerned” about Thomas’ assertion.

The Palace said it would leave it to the Department of Foreign Affairs “to decide on the best course of action” after seeking a clarification from Thomas about his claim on sex-starved foreign tourists visiting the country.

‘Offensive, demeaning’

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has also sought an explanation from Thomas. De Lima described the ambassador’s remarks as “offensive and demeaning to the image of the nation.”

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago called Thomas’ remarks “undiplomatic.”

Santiago said she “would in the first instance investigate what is his basis for saying that, whether that is a personal opinion or whether it is verifiable or quantifiable.”

Wake-up call

A Catholic bishop on Friday opposed calls for the government to file a diplomatic protest with the US Embassy.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said over Church-run Radyo Veritas that the government must instead exert efforts to address the problem of prostitution in the Philippines rather than waste time on diplomatic actions against the US envoy.

“If (the US ambassador) is wrong, then let it serve as a wake-up call to us,” Bacani said. He said that instead of taking Thomas’ statements as derogatory to the Philippines, government officials must deem it a warning.

Bacani said it was high time the government address more aggressively the problems of prostitution and human trafficking in the country. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy

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  • Anonymous

    Incidence like this is a clear show of disrespect.As the saying goes, you can catch the fish by it’s mouth. it only show how little we Filipinos are in the eyes of the Americans..So please don’t be  fooled by Harry’s Jollibee eating show. And stop being hypocrites, prostitution is all over the world. In Europe prostitutes  accepts credit card payments, in other Asian countries they advertise it, so what the heck?…Pinay just do it better..and with passion…

  • John Cross

    Buti pa nga si Amb. Thomas, tumutulong sa mga anti-human trafficking campaign. e iyong mga buwaya sa gobyerno, may ginagawang bang tulong. wala!!!

  • Anonymous

    The truth hurts ! talaga naman totoo yung sinasabi ng Amb. Ano naman ang pinunta dito ng turista ? yung traffic sa city ? smokey mountain ? wow men ! get real! proud na proud nga tayong mga pinoy na tayo ay lahing magaganda at mga guapo, tapos pag marami ang tumutikim at nagpapatikim nagagalit tayo.pag pumunta ka nga sa ibang bansa ang gusto mo ring matikman ay yung lahi din nila.

  • Anonymous

    What’s the big deal—The ambassador is just telling it as he sees it. Other countries have legalized prostitution and it’s just a fact of life.  Are we so precious that we would think that what he said would tarnish the countrys image?  Are we to believe these male tourists are here at their own peril because of the sights and sounds and beaches? Maybe shopping? You must be kidding!!
    Thousands of Filipinas are working as sex workers overseas and thousands more slave as domestics to survive and not a word from these ‘ image-conscious’ politicians and bishops. That alone is far more ‘offensive and demeaning to the nation’ than what the ambassador said. Get a reality check.

  • Anonymous

    Statistics on prostitutes and customers

    One 1990 study estimated the annual prevalence of full-time
    equivalent prostitutes in the United States to be 23 per 100,000
    population based on a capture–recapture study of prostitutes found in
    Colorado Springs, CO, police and sexually transmitted diseases clinic
    records between 1970 and 1988.

    Among voluntary substance abuse program participants, 41.4% of women
    and 11.2% of men reported selling prostitution services during the last
    year (March 2008).

    In New Jersey, 57 percent of prostitutes are HIV-positive, and in Atlanta, 12 percent of prostitutes are HIV-positive.

    A 2004 TNS poll reported 15 percent of all men have paid for sex and 30 percent of single men over age 30 have paid for sex.

    Over 200 men answered ads placed in Chicago area sex service
    classifieds for in depth interviews. Of these self-admitted “johns”, 83%
    view buying sex as a form of addiction, 57% suspect that the women they
    paid were abused as children, and 40% said they are usually intoxicated
    when they purchase sex.

    The prostitution trade in the United States is estimated to generate $14 billion a year.

  • ligaya

    Why apologize through something as informal as a text message? So it is not an official apology? Therefore his earlier demeaning statement is still the official stand of the US?

  • Anonymous

    eh di dapat mag apologize din ang mga MILITANTENG GRUPO ng walang sawang nagra-rally sa harap ng embahada ng estados unidos?

  • IlihanBoy

    ambassadors are realy persons of dignity and propriety as they represent their country. ambassador thomas is no exception. he meant what he said that why should he apologize for his sex comments on foreign visitors. for him to retract is simply unbelievable.

    there are rumors going around that foreign affairs secretary del rosario sent the text message to himself. It is beyond Mr. Thomas dignity to eat the humle pie. He is not that kind of a person.


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