A long overdue apology for the botched handling of a hostage crisis that led to the deaths of nine Hong Kong tourists in Manila in 2010 was reportedly issued by Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada yesterday with the backing of the Manila City Council.
The council resolution expresses “the sentiment of the city government of Manila in their sincerest effort to apologize to the People’s Republic of China, its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the family of the victims of the Rizal Park hostage-taking incident that occurred on August 23, 2010 within the territorial jurisdiction of the city of Manila.”
“Whereas, as former head of state, Mayor Estrada understands the importance of tourism in the nation’s economy; hence, he gives priority to the development of the two-square kilometer area of Manila Chinatown in Binondo, Manila,” the resolution added.
The same news report noted prominently that “Philippine President Benigno Aquino earlier said he will not apologize to Hong Kong”. The letter expressing the apology will be personally delivered by Estrada himself.
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The 2010 tragedy was a hideous exhibition to the world of the vast ineptitude of the Philippines’ crisis response infrastructure and a display of the astounding lack of human decency of the country’s biggest media organisations as they clambered over one another for a piece of the story as it unfolded. Mismanagement of the crisis emanated from the very top beginning with President BS Aquino himself who failed to organise his crisis management team in a timely manner and cascaded down to local commanders who deployed an ill-equipped and ill-trained team to handle the situation. Much has also been said about how President BS Aquino failed to quickly communicate with then Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang and keep him up-to-date during the crisis. For that matter, conflicting reports issued at the time by Malacanang’s “communication” team did not help at all…
Initially, [BS Aquino’s] communication team released a statement saying that he was in a “closed door meeting” on the 23rd of August and supposedly explains why he was unable to talk to Hong Kong Official Donald Tsang. Now the official IIRC report is claiming that he was in Malacanang monitoring the crisis on TV from 1 o’clock pm.
And all the while, top honchos of the Philippines’ “heroes of free speech” in its uber-profitable media conglomerates busied themselves washing the blood off their hands…
I don’t know why the Philippine media is crying foul after some journalists were recommended to be included in the list of those liable for the tragic event by the [Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima]. It was a no-brainer that the media’s narcissistic style of reporting made too much entertainment out of a serious event which made everyone too catatonic and glued to the television — including the hostage taker himself Rolando Mendoza who managed to achieve his 15 minutes of fame before his death. I suppose too that everyone wanted their 15 minutes of fame judging from the way reporter Erwin Tulfo wriggled his way inside the cordoned area with a cameraman in tow even when hostage taker Mendoza specifically asked for a female reporter and, more importantly, even when he wasn’t supposed to be there. Even radio reporter Michael Rogas of Radio Mo Network (RMN) took it upon himself to occupy the only line of communication available to the hostage taker, Mendoza’s cellphone, despite him not being an official hostage negotiator. These so-called journalists need someone to shake them vigorously just to make sure their brain is still attached to their skull.
Ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-prepared, and ill-thought-out. These are words that can easily describe anything to do with the Philippines across the board — from its politicians, to its law-enforcement officers, to its Media, and ultimately to the very people they serve (and are consequently reflections of). The propensity to fail consistently is ingrained into the very fibres that make up the very fabric of Philippine society.
More important is this simple principle that Filipinos also, well, fail at taking to heart:
When you fail, you apologise for the consequences of said failure.
Indeed, our long tradition of preventable disasters is world-renowned: feudal clan vendettas that result in the massacre of scores of innocents, maritime disasters with casualty numbers that utterly dwarf accidents that induce far more introspection and reform in normal societies, and “natural” calamities that in the blink of an eye drown and bury alive Filipinos in the thousands.
Where is the collective remorse and resolve to change that one would think senseless deaths like these would induce in other more normal societies?
No less than President BS Aquino has exhibited that typically-Filipino penchant for sidestepping the only right thing to do in the aftermath of a failure. In fact, there were reports that BS Aquino had hinted that a letter supposedly sent to him back then by “a Hong Kong official” was “insulting” and, as such, not worthy of his attention…
“I decided not to respond to the official letter from the Hong Kong government, that in my view was insulting. Instead, I conveyed through the People’s Republic of China government that maybe sending that letter to me was not right. I did not like its tone”
With so much history behind this god-awful mess tainted by the idiocy of the Second Aquino Administration, Mayor Erap’s decisive move to make amends with the Chinese people and the people of Hong Kong on behalf of Manila is a welcome step. Perhaps someday all of the Philippines will be represented in a similar apology by no less than the President of the Republic. Whether or not that President will be BS Aquino remains to be seen. Better late than never, in any case. 2016 is not too far off in the scheme of things. With its 5000-year history behind it, China, after all, can wait.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.