And so the President takes responsibility for “everything that has transpired” during the bloody bus siege last Aug. 23. The admission was done in an interview with reporters – almost two weeks after the incident.
Was that a sign of the President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino‘s humility, of the government’s resolve to fully rectify its mistakes during the hostage crisis? Why did the President take the blame just now? And why take all the blame, no matter how irrational the assertion is? The recent development indeed raises fresh questions on a drama that continues to grip the nation.
It must be noted that the President made the admission as the marathon three-day inquiry into the hostage crisis starts today. Presumably, it was done to preempt the findings of the five-member body headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, which would obviously imply his share of responsibility in the botched government rescue of Hong Kong tourists. It was a contingency move meant to mitigate a harsher political backlash in the offing for the Palace ahead of the results of the investigation.
Apparently, the panel is compelled by existing circumstances to conduct a fair and swift investigation precisely because the people and government of Hong Kong, as well as the whole world, is waiting for the results (notwithstanding the continuing barrage of criticisms against the government). When there is a fair and comprehensive probe on such major crisis, accountability can run up to the highest post of the land.
Presumably, it was also done to deflect criticisms on the alleged factionalism inside his administration. An ABS-CBN report said the rivalry between two groups, “Balay” and “Samar,” got in the way during the hostage crisis. The former is said to be made up of Liberal Party and Hyatt 10 supporters, while the latter is said to be composed of close allies and loyalists of the Aquino and Cojuangco families and of the PNOY lawyers group.
Or was it because Aquino simply cannot take the sight of his close friends suffering from too much criticisms anymore that’s why he’s now taking the punches for them? Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno, his long-time friend and a gun enthusiast like him, has been in hot water over the failed rescue. Puno was the Palace’s point man in the crisis management committee during the 11-hour standoff.
Likewise, Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa, also a long-time friend of the President, is under fire after a Newsbreak report disclosed that he was on a drinking spree with lady guests just days after the hostage crisis in the midst of widespread mourning.
Whatever the President’s motive is, his lame confession is simply too late. His finger has already done an eenie-meeni-miney-moe. The Filipino people, meanwhile, has already tasted the ire of some Hong Kong citizens.
He was given the opportunity to show his deepest remorse for the victims during the press conference immediately after the hostage-taking, but he simply used the time to display his insulting grin (which earned him more criticisms). A Palace reporter during the same press conference asked him straight, “Were you satisfied with the way the police handled the situation?” but he replied by saying so many things including dengue and his budget message. He was given the opportunity to join the public in loathing the major police blunder, but he chose to obfuscate the matter.
He also partly blamed the media in the same presscon, saying the blow by blow report on the developments provided hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza a bird’s eye view of the police operations. In his official statement on the hostage incident, Aquino implied blame on the media and the presence of Mendoza’s brother in the area even as it kept silent on the police’s obvious incompetence.
The blame game went in full swing, with Aquino still maintaining distance from the incident.
The hostage aftermath could have also been a perfect time for the President to demonstrate his maturity in handling criticisms, but he chose to keep his pride and even took a swipe at his perceived detractors (just like what his diehard supporters are doing). He said in a report that some of his detractors might have hoped that his administration’s handling of the hostage incident will affect his trust ratings. “I am sure a lot of them, especially those who have decided to be critics regardless of the circumstances and facts, once they know of the facts they will be hard-pressed to come up with their next criticism,” he said when asked if the honeymoon period is over.
Such remark is least expected from a President who was elected on the people’s hopes for change, reconciliation and unity.
Malacañang even indicated that the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also to blame for the hostage-taking’s bloody end, insisting that the Aquino administration is just days old and that it only inherited the problems left by the previous regime.
After all these finger-pointing, Aquino now owns up responsibility for everything – yes, everything. This is certainly not an act of humility. Rather, it is an empty and self-serving PR stunt, a joke perhaps.