“Sorry seems to be the hardest word to say,” is as old a moral concept as morality itself. It implies admission of guilt and at times, opens the door to compensation for the aggrieved. When the relatives of those that died in last year’s bungled hostage-rescue crisis arrived in Manila from Hong-Kong to mark the 1st anniversary of that infamous debacle, they sought an audience with President Aquino to solicit his apology and demand compensation for the deaths of their loved ones. The President denied them both requests. On the question of apology, the President seems to have missed the point entirely in saying, “the lone gunman and not the state is to be blamed for the tragedy.” He also said that “this was the act of one man, in the same token that some of us citizens have been affected elsewhere in the world, we do not blame the entire population.” He would have been right had the demand of the relatives been an apology from the Filipino people for the acts of hostage-taker Mendoza. Firstly, the demand was for an apology from the government and not from the Filipino people; secondly, he was not asked to apologize for the acts of Mendoza per se, but for the mismanaged rescue of the hostages. That the rescue was bungled, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee’s report established that the government did botch the rescue operations during the eleven hours that it had the chance of saving the hostages. The President was quoted as saying: “an apology connotes that the state harmed the tourists, which is not correct.” In fact, the state did harm the tourists even if it did not instigate it. When a doctor is sued for, say, botching a surgical procedure, the doctor or hospital is not being sued for causing the ailment or the disease of the patient; he is being sued for aggravating the condition of the patient which he was tasked to improve and which necessitated that he follow medically accepted basic actions which if not followed, worsens the patient’s condition or, at times, kills him. In short, and ironically, Mr. Aquino declined to give the relatives of those that perished in the Luneta crisis what they did not ask for. And to underscore that this tragedy in its aftermath is not over yet is Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s reported admonition to President Aquino upon his arrival in China last week “to properly handle the aftermath of last year’s Hong Kong hostage incident in Manila.”
Republic Act No. 10153, the law that effectively cancelled elections in ARMM that was scheduled for last month, August 2011, so as to synchronize it with the rest of the nation beginning 2013, is presently being discussed in the Supreme Court and will be adjudicated upon in the coming weeks. Based on the line of questioning, so far, by some of the Justices, the law signed by President Aquino last June may, indeed, be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is this column’s opinion or guess, if you wish, that the High Court will rule in favour of suffrage. To the Supreme Court justices, the appointing powers of the President as granted to him by this Act which mandates that he chooses their leaders to govern until the synchronized elections in 2013, seems difficult to accept especially that this will be implemented in a region with an autonomous charter.
There have been increasing grumblings about PNoy’s insistence in wearing the yellow ribbon pin on his chest coming mainly from those that did not support him in the elections but are willing to see him now as their President, and one they can rally behind to lead this country. But the feeling they get is PNoy stands as President and leader only of, and for, the “Yellow Brigade,” symbolized by the yellow pin he wears instead of pins with the colors of the Philippine flag. It is indeed curious to know what the thinking is behind the choice of wardrobe “accent” which when one is Head of State, would be seen as an official statement and not just a fashion statement, and rightly so. The logo and the color were both used extensively by supporters of his candidacy, including himself, during his Presidential bid. So, one cannot blame those that claim he still represents only his supporters. It is said that symbols are the most profound and impactful way of communicating. It is also said it has “deeper layers of reality.” There is a political dictum made popular by the late former Senate President Amang Rodriguez, that states: “politics is addition;” President Aquino, in wearing the “yellow brigade” symbol, does not seem to see this small but conspicuous “wardrobe accent” as divisive rather than inclusive – addition. Does he wear it as some kind of Anting-anting, perhaps?