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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 12:24pm
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

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

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
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.
jd.salinger.3154
Thanks for the compliment. I am honored to have stirred up enough commotion to keep people engaged, I learned this from Hollywood. My replies only reflect the quality of the comments I respond to. Try thinking.
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.
jd.salinger.3154
@jandajel & alpot_scmp. The red herrings you threw out are crummy and pathetic. It is obvious your ignorance knows no bounds.
jd.salinger.3154
JC. There are incoherencies in your arguments and your memory is not so hot. This "let's be very clear" language that you might have learned from Hillary 'Benghazi' Clinton is not taking you anywhere as far as this conversation is concerned. Let me ask you a question: What law did the journalist break at APEC? (Hint: APEC rules are not laws)
ecpath
Whoever wrote the article is probably buried in a load of cow dung !
KwunTongBypass

Looks like BJ is the only hope for many things in HK. Nanny State, here we come!

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