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  • Apr 18, 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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captam
When are the Hong Kong media going to apologize for their irresponsibility in televising live the tragedy and turning the whole sad episode into a media circus?
The bright floodlights and cameras agitated the deranged gunman even more. The media bear some of the responsibility for the outcome of this bungled rescue operation. I have seen no public apology for this behaviour.
chuchu59
While, to some extent, the floodlights and cameras agitated the gunman, the triggering point was the arrest of the gunman's brother. As if the bungled operation wasn't bad enough the official who spoke out and denied responsibility with sheer arrogance was just too much. Beijing's involvement is our only hope it seems.
KwunTongBypass

Looks like BJ is the only hope for many things in HK. Nanny State, here we come!
jd.salinger.3154
No. The Hong Kong media has nothing to apologize for, they seem to be the only people around who are arguing for justice and the rule of law to protect ordinary and vulnerable travelers. This is to the benefit to all travelers in the region. Please set your priorities straight.
alpot_scmp
Taiwan case is different. The death of the fisherman is caused by a individual who at that time working as an officer of the Philippine govt. therefore in effect the death is caused by the Philippine govt. In Hong Kong's case the deaths are caused by a lone gunman.
Besides if they appologize they will be starting a bad precedent. What if a tourist got robbed or kidnapped and outcome did not turn out well? Then every tourist can demand an appology or compensation from the Philippine govt.
jandajel
alpot_scmp is spot on regarding the difference between the Taiwan fisherman case and the Hong Kong tourist case. The dude who whacked the tourists from HK was not working for the Philippine government when he did his whacking. People like jd.salinger.3154 are poorly educated if they can not understand this subtle but important difference. I guess Hong Kong is such a "rich" city (not country) that a large number of its people have nothing better to do for 3 years than to harp on about demanding an apology from the Philippine government in order to prove HK's superiority.
Question for jd.salinger.3154 and people who think like him/her: Does the HK government formally apologize and compensate domestic workers from the Philippines every time one of them gets raped or otherwise abused by their employer?
JC
I am afraid alpot you can't see the subtle difference between a scene involving an ex-policeman killing foreign hostages, and an incompetent police force that reportedly contributed to the carnage with their wild shooting (police force part of the govenment) and an unfortunate matter between an employer and his maid. This is the problem with some Filipinos, getting all emotional and nationalistic, causing them to overlook key facts on a regular basis, and I'm sad to say, having a big chip on the shoulder for being the sick man of Asia. Perhaps all Filipinos should ask their past governments and their crony capitalists why they have screwed up the economy, causing millions of Filipinos to leave the country in search of work elsewhere. False pride for the sake of it doesn't get one anywhere.
jd.salinger.3154
Please keep your lousy argument to your poorly educated self. This is not the goddamn Middle Ages. Aquino should know better what is favorable for his citizens and any potential visitor to his country in this century.
jd.salinger.3154
@jandajel & alpot_scmp. The red herrings you threw out are crummy and pathetic. It is obvious your ignorance knows no bounds.

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