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As Hong Kong Mourns, the Philippines Look Inward

  • Ira Mellman

It was reminiscent of a reception for war dead. With bagpipes playing, survivors and family members gathered at Hong Kong’s International Airport as eight coffins were unloaded onto the tarmac after a flight from Manila. Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary Henry Tang promised continued support, pledging that the people of Hong Kong will always stand by their side and that the government will spare no effort to provide whatever assistance they need.

An investigation is already underway in the Philippines into the incident, where a disgruntled former police officer opened fire on a tourist bus he had taken hostage. It is still unclear if the 8 victims who were killed were shot by the hostage taker or by gunfire from police storming the bus.

While sorrow and anger continued in Hong Kong, the Philippines observed a day of public mourning. Questions about how the incident was handled are being expressed there as well. Delores Peleaz, a member of the Filipino Migrant Workers Union said, “Filipino migrant workers here share the Hong Kong People’s shock and dismay at the way the crisis situation was handled.”

President Benigno Aquino shifted into damage control mode, saying "we understand that there is that sense of outrage, and the anger that emanates from that sense of outrage. The Filipino President asked for understanding."
"We are correcting deficiencies that we have noted in the implementation of our operating procedures," he said.
Aquino added, "none of us wanted this outcome. And we'd like to emphasize the fact that primary consideration was trying to secure all of the hostages."

In the wake of the shootout, several senior Philippine police officials have been placed on leave. The weapons used by police have been secured as part of the investigation.

However, Filipino Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who had already acknowledged police were ill-prepared for the hostage incident, urged caution against jumping to a conclusion.

Robredo told reporters that until the investigation is complete and a full report is available, "I guess it’s not fair to say whose head will roll. We need to establish accountabilities and responsibilities."

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