In the aftermath of the August 23 Mendoza hostage massacre that resulted in the deaths of eight foreign tourists, Filipinos had plumbed new depths of collective shame as a people. The on-going investigations notwithstanding, the drama revealed to the world in living colour (courtesy of the greed and ill breeding of the men and women of the Philippine Media) made one thing tragically clear to all: like many other catastrophes that claimed lives in the Philippines this is one that could have been avoided.
In a comment posted in his own article in (response to a comment of mine) on his BadMannersGunClub.com, blogger Ben Kritz laid out a three-point framework for guiding the kind of “healing” exercise that we hope would involve the sort of reflection and introspection that have so far failed to take hold within the collective sensibilities of our people (my boldface/italics for emphasis below).
The failures in the Philippines crystallized and went on world-wide display when Mendoza boarded that bus. The way the President, his government, and the police handled it — failure of management institutions. The way the media handled it — failure of cultural institutions. The way the public handled it (yes, I’m talking about you, stupid picture-taking girls) — failure of society.
Management, culture, and society. These are the three pillars that prop up our collective dignity and viability as a free and independent people. And all of them failed catastrophically on that faithful day in August 23. More than any tragedy that adds to the weight of the shame that bears down on the Philippines, an effort to change our societal DNA along those three pillars is something we owe ourselves. To marshal the resolve to see this effort through from within will be indicative of whether or not we as a people still see the point in being a country.
For me, therefore, the most disturbing message to emerge from the din of Filipinos’ teeth-gnashing and breast-beating expressed in blog posts, newspaper columns, “status updates” and other mass communication channels is this bizarre call to “move on”.
Yes. Move on.
We do need to do that at some point. After all, as columnist William Esposo pompously points out…
The fact is our government and people have more than undertaken enough to express our collective regret and apology over the hostage tragedy. The fact is President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) has more than bent over backwards to try to ease the pain of the Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong where most of the fatalities came from. The fact is that there is a multi-agency probe underway and there is no attempt to cover up for anybody.
In short, it seems to me that Esposo, by virtue of these rectification measures he cited that he thinks are “enough”, would like all parties to move on.
To be fair to us Filipinos, we are in fact trying to make amends by doing those things. Pointing out the specifics of what we are doing to make amends is part of an effort to assure the victims of our collective failure that we are serious in our efforts.
But here’s the thing:
The call to “move on” is not ours to make.
While we can express our remorse, apologise profusely, and identify culpability amongst our lot — i.e., undertake all the necessary acts of contrition and rectification decency dictates — we cannot presume to prescribe how the victims ought to feel about the measures we take to appease them.
Our resolve to see these rectification measures through should not be premised on how the victims respond to or feel about them.
The people of Hong Kong are within their rights to decide how they would like to feel about what we Filipinos are currently doing to make amends for our failure. If, when, and how to move on is also a prerogative that is entirely theirs.
Perhaps we can look to the genius in the vast script of the Star Wars trilogy for some guidance on how we should regard our place in the scheme of things as far as our relationship with Hong Kong goes.
After failing to capture the Millenium Falcon in its escape from the Hoth system in the excellent film The Empire Strikes Back, the officer in charge of the operation Captain Needa, ashen faced, issued the order…
“Get a shuttle ready. I shall assume full responsibility for losing them, and apologize to Lord Vader.”
The next scene is a classic where the following famous words are uttered by Darth Vader…
… right after Needa falls to the floor dead, as a result of a telekinetic throttling applied to his throat by Vader using The Force.