From the Australian. The writer’s style may seem harsh to some, but to me, it’s the style that fits, and it’s all said like it should be:
September 03, 2010
THE Philippines, faced with global shame and humiliation after the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists because of its spectacularly inept handling of the Manila hostage crisis, is doing what is does so well: playing the victim.
A week of breast-beating and emotional mea culpas has given way to angry defensiveness. The sullen collective reflex in the aftermath of this embarrassing confirmation of all the worst stereotypes of The Philippines as a lawless, chaotic nation of rank incompetents is to play the nationalist anti-Chinese card in reaction to the fury of Hong Kong, where 80,000 rallied this week demanding answers after the fiasco.
International experts in hostage dramas said the police response during the 12-hour stand-off was wrong on multiple fronts, including inadequate equipment and training; failing to seal off the siege area from media and public view (one bystander was injured by a stray bullet); failing to quickly satisfy the gunman’s demands; and bringing in his brother to negotiate
Heaping insult upon outrage, Philippines police and “gore tourists” were shown on social media sites smiling in happy snaps in front of the bloodied and shattered tourist bus that became the tomb of entire families on holiday in Manila last week.
The driver of the bus, suspected of having been in cahoots with the hostage taker – disgruntled former police captain Rolando Mendoza – has gone missing with his family, in another example of police incapacity to carry out their most basic tasks.
Most appallingly, Mendoza enjoyed national hero status, his coffin draped in the Philippines flag at his funeral attended by more than a thousand mourners.
A swag of opinion makers and columnists, parliamentarians and Filipinos writing on blogs and social media are turning the whole drama, Philippines-style, into a kitsch telenovella tragedy where they are unjustly suffering from Chinese bullying and arrogance, following the cancellation of official visits and the souring of diplomatic relations.
The histrionics are drowning out the minority calling for a calm, clear-eyed look at the rottenness at the core of The Philippines’ police, government and media.
Not enough voices are decrying a sick public culture that banalises violence and murder, applauds the armed and dangerous macho men who try to take on the “system”, and prefers the beauty pageant circus of Miss Philippines reaching the top 15 of Miss Universe to a wholesale examination of the national conscience, and concrete steps to prevent such a tragedy happening again.
Currying populist favour, senator Kiko Pangalinan said while he did not personally agree with the swathing of Mendoza’s casket in the national flag, “there is no law that explicitly bans the use of the flag in such a manner, and therefore we will have to respect the individual freedoms of our people”.
Just to hammer home the oft-noted “cultural differences” between The Philippines, a Christian country with democratic aspirations, and godless, authoritarian China, he 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 senator echoed widespread Filipino justifications of the widespread callousness towards the dead and injured as their Christian culture of “accepting God’s will” and moving on.
Columnist William Esposo in The Philippine Star went further, saying: “China should be the last to posture as if they hold a candle to us when it comes to preventing tragedies”, and recalling the 2005 murder of Philippines businessman Emmanuel Madrigal and his daughter by an axe-wielding madman in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
“Did a Chinese official apologise to the Madrigal family, The Philippines government or the Filipino people for their failure to protect Filipino tourists in one of the most visited sites in their capital? Where, then, do they get the gall and the temerity to disrespect us and our President due to a similar incident?
“How come our media pander to all these violations of protocol, baseless attacks and arrogance of Chinese officials? Have our media been secretly bought by the Chinese for them to espouse the Chinese line like this?”
Yesterday, a story in the leading Manila newspaper The Inquirer – headlined “Enough already” – pointed out that while “we ask forgiveness and condole with the Hong Kong families” and await the Aquino administration investigation, “we now say enough to the breast-beating.
“We are in solidarity with the women and men who offer prayers . . . but we see no point in prostrating ourselves further, or in insulting The Philippines government as though in a continuing kowtow. We will not be forced into a sackcloth-and-ashes pose.”
Such hogwash, redolent of familiar fatalistic, dolourist distortions of Catholic notions of sin and personal responsibility, is once again allowing a societal head-in-the-sand mentality to prevail in a nation that thinks saying sorry many times should be enough.
The reactions to the televised crisis have been severe, with immediate cancellations of thousands of hotel bookings and package tours to island getaway Boracay.
Aware that he is haemorrhaging credibility and authority so soon after his euphoric inauguration, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino has pleaded with the press and police to “shut up” and stop offending the Chinese.
But the defiant reaction in The Philippines is to turn its back on reality and take refuge in economic patriotism and racist nationalism.
It is quite a feat and will certainly do nothing but long-term damage to this troubled nation.
Note from poster: The writing is on the wall. Shame on us if we don’t heed.