By DAVID EDWARD LEE
As the last bullets flew from the smoking M16 barrel, a deafening silence came over Rizal Park, Manila on the 23rd of August. Eight hostages and 1 renegade policeman dead later, fingers started pointing, sadness was overwhelming, anger began boiling and the President was nowhere to be found.
The next day, the bus became an unlikely tourist. The “smiling tourists” took pictures that would perhaps become more controversial than the hostage taking. Indeed, they have drawn the ire of the Chinese and Hong Kong citizens. But is it then just to frame these people as a reflection of the Filipino society?
Born in Singapore, raised in the Philippines and of Chinese descent, I am every bit in between the whole situation. I don’t intend to defend the actions of those who have taken the controversial photos, nor do I support the hatred that has been circulating of late. Instead, Filipinos and Chinese should direct their scorn towards each other and direct it to the incompetent government that could have prevented this unnecessary grief.
Shortly after the smoke settled, President Benigno Aquino, began his media fiasco with an inspection of the decimated bus. Now, for a President that has so much to answer for, he sure wasn’t fazed to take the time to beam his pearly whites for the press while inspecting the bus.
There are times when a leader is expected to show no fear and that his smile is meant to inspire confidence in his people. Note to the President, this isn’t one of those times to use that cheeky smile of yours. In a public apology, the President defends himself by stating that his smile was “more an expression of exasperation rather than anything”.
The President was exasperated indeed, expressing his extreme annoyance at several people.
He was more than happy to share his sentiments of “exasperation” with the public in his statement on August 24, 2010. He pointed at an Ombudsman who wrote to the hostage taker regarding the review of his case, which was followed by an “unknown caller” which further agitated the gunman. Then he goes on further to point the blame at the hostage taker’s brother, who apparently “added to the tension”. The President further expressed his disappointment in the Philippine National Police for bungling up the whole operation.
I applaud the President for letting the public know who to pin-point the blame at. I think he left out one key figure though. Himself.
During the 11-hour siege, it was almost as if the Philippines was a country without a President. His reason? “I purposely tried not to interfere…” He felt that if he interfered he would disturb the operation. Perhaps he meant to phrase it more like, “I purposely tried not to get my hands dirty…” With a leader who passes the blame on to others, it’s no wonder the internet calls him a “missing-in-action president” and a “coward president”.
I just can’t shake the feeling that all of this bloodshed and tragedy could have been avoided.
Prior to all the mishaps, the hostage taker clearly made his intentions clear to everybody. He wanted his job back, and he was prepared to do anything for it. The government knew of his intentions and what the potential outcomes were. However, once again, the Philippine government decided politics was more important than people’s lives. The office of the Ombudsman denied his request but said they would review his case. While a Mayor, could not pass the news that he was to be reinstated in time due to bad traffic. Bad traffic? Unless he was talking about phone signal traffic then I don’t see the reason why this crucial message didn’t arrive at the hands of the hostage taker earlier. If the President had been around to coordinate with several government offices, there was an off-set chance the whole incident could have been avoided. Fortunately, the President comes up with the best excuses not to turn up.
“None of us wanted this outcome,” yes Mr. President nobody indeed, now then let me ask you a question: How could you have even let this happen?
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