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  • Oct 20, 2014
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Aquino should apologise for Manila bus tragedy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 6:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 6:31am
 

Philippine president Benigno Aquino has made plain he is not going to apologise for the Manila bus tragedy. Yet there is every reason he should do so, both on moral grounds and to get relations with his country and Hong Kong back on track. Pan-democrat politicians have suggested all manner of ideas to force his hand, but the proposals are either mere politicking or would fail due to our city's lack of leverage. Beijing's welcome intervention offers a real chance, though.

Premier Li Keqiang entered the fray at the East Asia Summit, urging Aquino to quickly resolve the three-year-old stand-off. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Philippine leader agreed official-level talks would resume soon. There have since been conflicting statements by Aquino and others in his administration, giving the impression that Manila lacks the resolve to bring closure to the victims and their families. The president clearly has that ability, though. The apology to Taiwan for the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters by the Philippine coastguard in May is ample proof.

Taiwan was able to force the apology because of the Philippines' strong trade, tourism and employment links to the island. The threat of sanctions was enough to make Aquino break his silence. But Hong Kong, having less than one-third the population, is not in so powerful a position. Suggestions such as that made by the radical People Power party, which has called for the banning of the 160,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong, are not helpful. Years would pass before it could take effect and employers as well as the maids and the families they support at home would suffer.

Boycotting Philippine products - Hong Kong is the fourth-biggest importer - is similarly unwise due to the disruption of supply chains. Working with Beijing to pressure Aquino to see reason would be more effective. China is the Philippines' third-largest trading partner and it has ever-growing levels of tourism and investment. The importance of China to the Philippines means the country cannot do without the relationship.

The Manila police gravely mishandled attempts to end the hijacking of the tour bus by a former colleague. On live television, we watched their incompetence lead to a shoot-out that left eight of the group dead and seven injured. Justice and compensation are the least that could be expected. If Aquino does not act responsibly and apologise, the best hope of changing his mind lies with Beijing.

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This article is now closed to comments

john.lone.75
Chinese should apologise to Tibetans and Ughurs for all the mis-treated and must return lands (Tibet and Xinjiang) back to rightful owners.
oxymoron11
Why don't you all just leave that poor man alone ! Isn't it hard enough for a man to run a country that is plagued by poverty, desolated by nearly all natural disasters known to men, ruination by corruptions and constantly threatened by coup détat ?
Whatever self-esteem this country has left, it is all mustered into an inflated ego that keeps whatever spirit it has intact. Show pity and don't rob away what little dignity this country has. It's easy to oversee how lucky you are when your belly is full whereas the majority of the population in a country is trying to make ends meet. It's called mercy.
-
Do you slap a toddler when he steps on your toes ? No ! You give him a lollipop in return. Need I elaborate the toddler's mind is not up to par in a reasonable debate in what's right and what's wrong. Quod erat demonstrandum.
OldPeak Toad
CY is not a "poor man", is he?
Ohh, you are not talking about Hong Kong? Ha Ha Ha!
lamlm38
stupidity and incompetence in itself is not a crime!! I watched the whole hostage situation unfolded live on CNN.. i thought Elmer Fudd couldnt have done any worse :)
HK-Lover
2.
It would be appreciated if SCMP would start with investigative and factual articles. SCMP should analyse and report on the political and legal differences between the Taiwanese and the Hong Kong incidents.
This very unfortunate incident was not a states affair of the Republic of Philippines but of an individual city within the country and all responsibility lies with the city's administration. It is on the city's administration represented by its mayor to apologise, take responsibility and offer sensible compensation.
However, the president should ensure that the administrations on a provincial and city level in his country function properly.
All this has hopefully been made clear to the victims and the their families by their lawyers and the HK politicians (some of them being lawyers) who got involved.
That the police force failed miserably was an issue for their ultimate superior, the mayor. And that the mayor obviously failed is not a matter for the president but for the electorate because the mayor is an elected politician.
If a district councillor in HK fails in his job it's not on the Chief Executive to dismiss him but on the electorate. And the electorate in Manila took the consequences and mayor Lim was ousted in the recent election.
JC
I'm not so sure is as simple as that. Aquino was kept fully informed of the rescue plan. And he gave a press conference a few days later.
But yes maybe getting the mayor over to the HK to apologise on behalf of Manila and the Philippines might be a good compromise.
And I'm sure he's wealthy enough to offer a small compensation to the affected families as a nice gesture.
I doubt if the families have any legal recourse on the matter. They would have to depend on the goodwill of Manila, and I think some goodwill is due.
HK-Lover
1.
It's saddening that readers cannot discuss matters in a sensible and rational way but attacking others who express their opinion freely on a very low moral level with personal attacks . Stick to the topic and to the facts and respect other's opinion.
JC
Why must doing right be compared to the lowest common denominator practised elsewhere? I am neither a Hongkonger or a Filipino, and as an impartial observer of the events that unfolded on TV that fateful day 3 years ago, as well as how Aquino had a smirk on his face - including a faint smile - during a press conference on the matter, I think the least the President can do is admit the ****-ups of his regime, and apologise. What's worse, some members of the police force as well as schoolchildren even took pictures of themselves smiling in front of the tragic scene days after. What rubbish is that? If the Philippines was forced to apologise to the Taiwanese for another recent ****-up by its armed forces, what's holding it back from apologising to Hong Kong, and above all, families of the victims? Whether or not Hong Kong has a superiority complex is not the point, but by denying facts and pretending that you are right and implicitly superior when you are clearly not, does it really make the Philippines any better compared to Hong Kong? No need to get all chauvinistic and defensive here. Get real.The challenge for Aquino now is how to apologise without losing face in front of his own people. Hong Kong would do well to help him here, by not pushing him to the corner, such as boorish behaviour by those journalists at APEC who were clearly out to ambush and embarass him. Grow up and get this tragic event out of the way of good relations.
jd.salinger.3154
The most unfortunate aspect of this whole deadlock is perhaps related to geopolitics with the Philippines as a pawn and this is what makes this so awful for everyone except Aquino and his unenlightened voters. I watched the APEC video on SCMP, not sure if it was the same one as yours, the journalist was certainly choppy but I wouldn't say she was out to cause anyone harm. The good thing that came out of this was that she managed to get the message across to Beijing at a regional trade event as the grievances have been seeping into economics three years after the tragedy. This is becoming a destabilizing and negative element to the region. Aquino can keep the Law of the Jungle to his population but he needs to watch out, for in the end, China/Hong Kong is his neighbor and a trading partner of ASEAN, it is not worth damaging long-term trade relations just because he wants to act tough for the circus for a few days.
JC
Whether her actions caused any harm must be seen in the context of where and how the action unfolded. Maybe in HK, such media aggression is commonplace, but less so in other cultures. And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The loud questioning was not just obnoxious, but in my opinion, clearly a premeditated attempt to corner and embarass a President. It was not just the female reporter, but a male reporter as well. In case you don't realise it, those actions also brought embarassment to the host of APEC, Indonesia, not just the Filipino president. And rightly or wrongly those journalists got kicked out of the meet. As for trade relations being very important, yes they are, but let's be very clear, they do not define the relationship. Maybe some tin-pot economy may choose to genuflect in front of the altar of money at every opportunity, but not everyone. Even China is now seeking a multifaceted relationship to burnish its international image. As for the Philippines, let's also be very clear that ASEAN will not support its member states blindly if they are clearly in the wrong. Blind patriotism and false pride, must never get in the way of getting things right. The way forward is for the President to send an aide to meet with the Hong Kong families to resolve the issue. Any apology now will come across as forced however you spin it, but it's better than allowing relations to fester to the benefit of no one, including the Philippines.

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