Where Was the President Hiding Yesterday
One of the things we missed yesterday is the presence of our dear President Benigno Aquino. Why the virtual absence of our chief executive who should have made himself available to top police authorities and to the head of Hong Kong government?
A few days ago our President spoke about the virtue of sacrifice. In a message on the 27th death anniversary of his father, late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the President said: “The idea of setting aside one’s personal interest, comfort, convenience and even one’s freedom for the greater good was the lesson he (Ninoy) taught me and all of us who strive for a more just and caring society.”
The President should now understand that the tragic ending of the August 23 hostage crisis is the concretization or actualization of his gospel of sacrifice. Similar to what I stated in an earlier blog, sacrifice simply means the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. It does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious.
Our police force clearly sacrificed the lives and limbs of Hong Kong nationals by incompetently, amateurishly dealing with a hostage-taker. Our dear President sacrificed the lives and safety of a dozen hostage victims, who came to our country to enjoy our tourist spots, by failing to give proper guidance to police authorities and by not making himself available to the leader of Hong Kong.
The city’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang told international press that he was saddened by the incident and described the hostage-taker disgruntled ex-policeman Rolando Mendoza as “cold blooded”.
“The outcome is very disappointing. It is a tragedy because a pleasure trip has ended up with casualties and injuries,” Tsang said. The head of Hong Kong also said he had been unable to reach Philippine President Benigno Aquino, and urged authorities to give a full account of the crisis.
“I tried to contact the Philippine president this afternoon, hoping to put to him in person the request to take the safety of the hostages as the top priority,” Tsang said. “However, I am still unable to get hold of him.”
So where was Mr. Aquino hiding all day? As the primary representative of the country, our President should have made himself readily available to the head of Hong Kong to provide full account of the hostage crisis. Is this another sign of extreme incompetence on the part of Mr. Aquino? In the first place, it’s the duty of our President to give the head of Hong Kong an account of the incident since the Philippine government is responsible for the security and safety of foreign nationals here. This undiplomatic absence of the President somehow reflects the extreme incompetence of whole Philippine bureaucracy.
During the hostage crisis, Malacañang palace only made an appeal to the hostage-taker to “respect and honor the lives of people” there. A palace spokesperson informed the media that the President was informed about the situation and “entrusted the matter to the police and local authorities who were well-prepared to handle the problem.” But the question is: Where was he hiding?
To add insult to the injury suffered by the victim’s families, Aquino later issued a statement offering his condolences to the families of the victims.
A survivor sums it up when she spoke to the media. The survivor, who identified herself as Mrs Leung, accused the authorities of acting too late and turning a blind eye to their ordeal.
“It’s too late. Why were there no one to help us after so many hours?” she said.
“There were so many people on the bus – no one came to our rescue. Why? For money? Sacrificing so many lives for money? We were in fear for so many hours. I find it really cruel.”
Leung said her husband sacrificed himself for others on the bus. “I actually really wanted to die with him. But I think of my children.”
“I miss him,” she said in tears.
It’s only proper for the Hong Kong government to issue a travel ban against the Philippines for failing to secure the safety of foreign nationals. The incompetence of our police system and the so-called SWAT team, which now means Sorry We Aren’t Trained, shows that the country is not yet a safe tourist destination.
“A serious kidnap incident happened in the Philippines. Hong Kong residents should avoid all travel to the country,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.
“Those who are already there should attend to their personal safety and exercise caution.”
This height of incompetence will surely affect the country’s business climate, particularly our tourism industry.
Last year, there were more than 2.7 million tourists who visited the country, which consists of only about 4 percent of all arrivals into the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Malaysia led Southeast Asia with 23.6 million visitors, followed by Thailand with 14.1 million, Singapore with 9.7 million and Indonesia with 6.5 million.
In a separate incident, a South Korean pastor was shot dead on his way home from the airport in Manila, South Korea’s foreign ministry said yesterday. The killing was unrelated to the bus hijacking, but this simply reflects the worsening climate of injustice in the country. The President should look at the police force if his government seeks to maintain peace and order.
The President compared the Manila hostage crisis perpetrated by a lone hostage-taker with the tragic Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia. It seems that the President forgot the fact that the hostage crisis in Russia a few years ago was perpetrated by a group of fully armed Muslim Ingush and Chechen terrorists who took more than 1,100 people (including 777 children) hostage on 1 September 2004, at School Number One (SNO) in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia, an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. Whereas in the August 23 hostage crisis, a lone gunman took a busload of mostly Hong Kong nationals. Clearly, the President committed a fallacy of false analogy here in his attempt to defend the incompetence of our police force. The Beslan hostage-takers were motivated by their radical religion, while Mr. Mendoza was making impossible demands from the government. Check the facts of the Beslan hostage crisis here.
You’re wrong, Mr. President! Check these photos of the Beslan hostage crisis in Russia: