Friday, September 3, 2010


When can you say that you’ve shed enough tears? When is heartfelt sorrow enough to prove remorse, or the resolve to fix things that need fixing?

Former police officer Rolando Mendoza’s act of taking hostages and later executing eight of them was cruel and contemptible.

The ala-Keystone Cops hostage “rescue” by the Manila SWAT and how the whole crisis was managed by people and groups with power to influence the outcome are equally condemnable.

The police, media and even President Aquino have all acknowledged their faults and acted to avoid a repetition of the tragic event.

But how many times do we have to apologize to the Chinese in Hongkong and the Mainland?

“The fact is President Aquino has more than bent over backwards to try to ease the pain of the Chinese people,” Billy Esposo wrote in his column in the Philippine Star.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan added, “We ask for China’s understanding in that we live under different systems, and what may be prohibited and banned in their nation may not be so in ours”.

The US State Department released earlier this week the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

“China’s human rights record is dismal and not improving,” noted Walter Lohman and Nicholas Hamisevicz of The Heritage Foundation.

The Aquino administration has demonstrated time and again just how new and inexperienced it is (others, less generous, say its incompetence) in dealing with major crisis.

It may not be as evident as several decades ago, but the Philippines lives in a tough neighborhood.

The Maguindanao Massacre was not simply an act of political violence. Coupled with the five-decade-old communist insurgency and Islamic secessionism in Mindanao – they undermine the fabric of Philippine sovereignty – the supreme and independent authority possessed or claimed by a state.

Add to that Mendoza’s brazen presumption that he could actually force the government to review his dismissal for being a “kotong” or “hulidap” policeman by taking foreign hostages, with the objective of winning back his old job.

The Philippines is surrounded by powers much greater than her.

The country still has to shake off the reputation of being the “sick man of Asia”. This only adds to the already serious institutional weaknesses that have stopped her from addressing the larger concerns of poverty and corruption.

Power loves a vacuum. It is drawn to it like flies on rotting meat. And since the Philippines has so little of it, the void could be filled from outside.

Perhaps that is why when a dismissed cop mows down eight Chinese tourists (some with dual British and Canadian citizenships), we seem to weep much harder and feel the indignation more than when active-duty policemen herd off about four dozen Filipinos on a lonely road, mow them down with Armalites, crushing some inside their cars with a payloader.

Isolated incidents, true. But isn’t it time the government, specifically the fledgling Aquino administration, proves it can get the job done?

In 1976, Israel raided the Entebbe airport in Uganda to rescue 248 Jews taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. In 2009, France sent troops to rescue its nationals aboard a yacht held by pirates off the Somali coast.

Even as the Philippine government makes amends, it’s time to tell the Chinese we’ve finished with our apologies, to let them do their job. We live in a tough neighborhood – the Chinese know that only too well, and Filipinos should do too.

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