Apology or no?

Debate sparked anew in the Philippine online world earlier this week when Noynoy refused quite stubbornly to give the surviving relatives of slain Hong Kong nationals in what is called and being remembered internationally as the Manila massacre (locally as the Bus hostage crisis) an apology.

There are of course those on the sympathetic side in favor of the apology. There are also those who are adamant that the Philippines and the government owe the tourists no apology and that the country has gone over and beyond its responsibilities to appease the HK nationals and an additional apology from no less than the President himself is too much and is tantamount to displaying weak will. Apparently, the party line went as Noynoy said it himself:

“We deeply regret what has transpired. An apology connotes that the state did them grievous harm. I don’t think that’s correct. This was the act of one man, the same token that some of our citizens have been affected elsewhere in the world, we do not blame the entire population. We know that there are criminal elements, there are mentally deranged individuals that pose a threat to anybody regardless of race or country of origin…We sympathize and continue to sympathize with them. We really wish it did not happen. We hope we had performed better at that point. But in the same token that in Norway, there was this tragedy that could not have been prevented because of a lone, solitary deranged gunman, so can we really be faulted that there was such a rapid turn of events that I don’t think any force in the world could have prevented it.”

I am with the first group.

I don’t think the Philippine government went over and beyond its responsibilities in ensuring protection and justice for international guests, in fact they have been irritatingly unable to meet even the most minimal of criterion to even be considered as serving justice.

A couple of things extremely wrong with P-Noys statement. Firstly, turn your attention to the first three sentences. It starts off with him saying that he feels really bad about what happened, just not enough to say he’s sorry. Secondly, P-Noy makes the assumption that everyone wants him to apologize for not being able to foresee an attack by a deranged lunatic and prevent it before it happened (and this has turned into a general consensus). Nobody’s saying that, this isn’t the Minority Report. What they are asking you to apologize for is the “rescue” of the PNP and the lack of leadership that should have been there (P-Noy) that actually resulted in all the deaths and how there was a severe lack of justice served regarding those that were deemed responsible but not held responsible afterwards.

Did he really compare the hostage crisis to the Norway shootings? If he did P-Noy must be vastly misinformed of how Brevik operated with the mad intent to kill everything that moved or else he was misinformed on the details of the hostage crisis. I find the latter to be a bit more believable since he wasn’t even there and was completely missing until four hours after it ended.

Long explanation short, Anton Brevick attacked without warning killing everything in sight and the authorities subdued him in a matter of hours quickly responding with alert competence and efficiency. Rolando Mendoza held a bus of tourists hostage, the media became waaaay too close to the story, the PNP bungled the entire rescue with idiocy that was almost comedic effectively getting eight people killed because of their own ineptitude.

Yesterday, a columnist from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Randy David, posted an article on why the government and the President shouldn’t give the hostage crisis survivors an apology for what happened to them. (It’s probably no secret that PDI likes to kiss P-Noys ass but I decided not to mention that.) I like Randy David (really I do) but that doesn’t stop me from disagreeing with him (vehemently) on this point, and I really think he dropped the ball on this one.


He starts off his article by first describing how shocking and traumatic the events of  August 23, 2010 were. But on the third paragraph in a seeming imitation to P-Noys logic, the shock and trauma (and eventual deaths) experienced by the hostages apparently weren’t enough to require an apology.

“You demand justice. In your view, justice must come in four ways: first, a formal apology from no less than the President of the Philippines; second, just compensation for the victims; third, sanctions for the public officials who bungled the rescue; and finally, an assurance from the government that everything will be done to prevent such tragedies from happening again. Something is not quite right about these demands.”

Really? These sound minimally reasonable to me when a loved one dies in a tragedy like this.

“Never mind that their tone is arrogant. But, they also suggest that Philippine authorities have done nothing to express sympathy and solidarity with the victims of this unfortunate incident. They paint a picture of official indifference and callousness, of a government that is ignorant of its functions, and of a country that is unconcerned about its relations with other nations. This is far from the truth. Manifestations of sympathy and regret, both from government and the private sector, over this shocking incident poured instantly.”

I completely agree.

That’s just two kids. You can’t really make a case about insensitivity with just…

Ok, even more kids. But these are just students they don’t really know the gravity of what they’re…

Mother of–! Fuck it. Defending these guys are a bigger pain in the ass than defending the contradictions in the Bible. You think the victims call for an apology was arrogant, wait ’till you see the comments of the Chinese on the website I got these pics from.

“The Manila police received the most scathing criticisms from the Filipino public itself. No institution in recent memory has ever been so mocked and humiliated.”

And no one will deny that they deserved every part of it. But the question remains did anyone actually apologize (officially) to the bereaved? I mean I can mock a security guard for falling asleep on the job all I want but that’s not going to console the people who invested their life savings in the bank that was just robbed.

“A transparent and free media reported everything they considered newsworthy,”

As they should.

“completely unmindful of the damage such openness could do to the country’s image.”

Well, a damaged image is what you expect to get when your police force was proven to be completely and utterly incompetent on an international stage.

“The government quickly launched a comprehensive investigation of the incident to pinpoint lapses in the handling of the hostage-taking incident, as well as to assign responsibility and culpability. The inquiry was broadcast live on national television, and was concluded in record time. A number of high-ranking officials were recommended for sanctions. Some of the charges were dismissed or downgraded in accordance with due process.”

Some?! Try almost all of them. No less than 12 government officials were found liable to be charged in the bungled operation as well as police and media personnel during the first submitted IIRC report. The list included:

  • then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Verzosa;
  • then Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay, who served as ground commander;
  • National Capital Region Police office chief Leocadio Santiago;
  • hostage negotiator Manila Superintendent Orlando Yebra;
  • DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno;
  • Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual, head of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team;
  • Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez;
  • Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez III;
  • TV5’s Erwin Tulfo;
  • Radio Mo Nationwide’s (RMN) Michael Rogas;
  • Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim
  • Manila Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno
  • 3 broadcast networks.
Can anyone guess how many of these people were taken out of the list after P-Noy was done with it? All of them! Oh wait, no Emilio Gonzalez was sacked, which was convenient since he was an ally of Merceditas Gutierrez, and we all know what happened to her. Every single person who mattered on that list was taken out. But I will agree that they were removed because of due process. The process is called cronyism. And this is the biggest beef (I think) the survivors have with how the situation was handled.
“The Aquino administration, which assumed the reins of government barely two months before the incident, offered to dispatch a top delegation to China to offer its sympathies and to explain what happened. Unfortunately, the official delegation could not be received. But before the year ended, the tourism secretary went to Hong Kong to reiterate the Filipino nation¿s sympathies, as well as to offer financial assistance to the victims and their families.”
The tourism secretary? The Head of the Department with the least manner of involvement in the matter was the only one who had enough balls to go to Hong Kong to try to make amends. It’s easy to forget that almost a hundred Filipino witnesses were invited to testify for the investigative trial at Hong Kong, including government officials, police officers and the Justice Secretary herself, all of whom declined to attend. This wonderful opportunity for closure after the callous watering down of the IIRC report was shrugged off and people wonder why the Chinese think the Philippine government and police aren’t interested or concerned with delivering justice. And bringing up P-Noys inexperience by including that his administration was only a couple of months old is a little late since we already know he was inexperienced during the campaigns just by looking at his Senate career.
An another thing that displayed P-Noys apparent disregard for the entire crisis was the fact that he was completely invisible and missing when it all went down. Appearing only four hours after the hostages were killed, with virtually no excuse as to his whereabouts (at least not one that makes sense). I know Metro Manila is a big place and traffic can be hard at times, but four hours?! Did he decide to walk there from Antipolo? And what demonstrated his complete lack of appreciation that eight people just died and the image on the country he was supposed to lead was completely mangled was his smiling face while giving a press briefing. No, not a brave we-can-get-through-this smile, A happy I’m-not-sure-what-everyone’s-so-worked-up-about smile. Back then his defenders explained this away by saying that a President shouldn’t concern himself with every little drama that unfolds in the country and that he couldn’t be expected to be present to give orders during a police operation. Well, it looks like it’s a pretty big concern now doesn’t it.
“Both sides must reach out to one another in full respect for the dignity of the other. Like an open wound that can be infected, this gap can be exacerbated by opportunistic elements on both sides. Particularly dangerous are those that exploit unexamined racist feelings that feed off the lowly position Filipino maids occupy in Hong Kong society. Chauvinism and resentment are corrosive and must be resolutely discouraged.”
Whoa! Hold the phone. Who ever mentioned anything about Filipino maids? Who mentioned anything about race or country? Who ever said anything about making the entire country apologize when they are only making one man make a sincere and formal apology for the ineptitude of his subordinates in carrying out their sworn duties? The government is not the country, the President is not the people. It seems to me that people (not just Mr. David) are conflating two vastly different situations. It seems to me the one who cried race when race wasn’t being discussed is the only one concerned with the topic of race, making race a relevant issue when it is irrelevant is borderline racist. And I don’t normally care for the topic of race, it’s a stupid thing to argue about to be perfectly honest.
I agree, Chauvinism and resentment should be put aside. How can we do that? Deliver justice! No? We can’t do that? Ok, then maybe a simple apology from someone who matters will do. What? We can’t do that either? Geez, you guys aren’t making this repairing relations easy are you?
“We have many weaknesses as a people, but lack of compassion has never been one of them, particularly where foreign guests are concerned. “
Sorry, did I hear say never? You want to scroll back up again and look at the pictures one more time.
“We go out of our way to accommodate, serve and entertain visitors, even when some of them act as if they have left their manners at home.”
Speak for yourselves. I never lifted a finger to accommodate, serve or entertain any foreigners in my life. In fact, I go out of my way to ignore and get away from them.
“The Philippine government did not organise that ill-fated tour. As in most countries, tourist travel is arranged by private companies, many of them usually in partnership with foreign firms. What the state strives to do is create an environment in which tourists and locals alike can feel secure. Yet, no travel is ever risk-free. A tourist can be mugged, swindled, raped, kidnapped, or even murdered anywhere in the world. Because of one sad experience in a country, one may swear never to come back. That is perfectly understandable.”
How many times do I have to say this? Nobody said they did. There was no way they could have arranged or foreseen any of the events that transpired that day but that’s not the issue here. The issue is the state spectacularly failed in creating a safe environment for tourists in the form of rescuing them with no one getting killed. Yes tourists get mugged and raped and killed and kidnapped everyday in every part of the world but in almost all of them the state tries its hardest and most earnest to give them justice.
By relieving himself of this responsibility P-Noy and his government are basically saying that they cannot perform the duties of protecting foreign visitors because the forces of resolving such matters are apparently beyond their control. Tourists are not safe in the Philippines so much so that the country has been dubbed “The Kidnapping Capital of the World”. The state should not and cannot be held responsible and accountable for their failures at doing their jobs. Therefore, whenever P-Noys government encourages foreign tourism they basically tell them to come at their own risk since the state is not responsible for their protection and cannot be held accountable for failure in enforcing such protection. The same goes for the local population as well.
“But, you can’t blame an entire nation for the act of one deranged individual or criminal, or for the failure of the police to stop him. Nor can you demand an official apology or compensation from government for the misfortune that fell on you as a tourist.”
No you can’t blame the country for the failure of the police, but you can blame the state that controls them. Actually, within reason they could, especially if they lost a relative resulting from the ineptitude and idiocy of the police in failing to do their jobs with competence.
“Every country aspires to draw tourists to come for a visit. But gone are the days when governments could take responsibility for everything that happens in their territories. Today¿s nations are more complex. In their highly differentiated systems, no single part can represent and speak for the whole on all matters.”
I agree, except again when the matter directly concerns the state and the ineffectiveness of its police force.
I really hope Mr. Davids article is a satire.

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