CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Duterte’s apology too late

HONG KONG (SE): The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Hong Kong for the second time in 10 months, apologised to the Chinese people on April 12 for the Manila bus hijack hostage tragedy in 2010 in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed during the botched rescue attempt. 
 
The South China Morning Post reported on April 13 that Duterte told the crowd of 2,500 gathered at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on April 12 that he was sorry for the tragic incident and hoped that his apology would assuage the feelings of the Chinese government and its people. 
 
Jackie Hung Ling-yu, of the Justice and Peace Commission, said that the apology came too late and lacked sincerity, while rights workers felt that it was a lame tactic by the Philippine president to obtain economic advantages with the city. They also felt that the high-level security measures for the visit were indicative of his unwillingness to listen to dissenting voices. 
 
While the apology drew wild applause from the crowd, critics wasted no time reacting saying that, if Duterte were sincere, it is the people of the Philippines who deserved an apology for the killing of thousands in his notorious war on drugs.
 
Hung said the apology should have been made after the incident by the former president, Benigno Aquino, or by Duterte immediately after he took office—not years later to a gathering welcoming him to Hong Kong. She felt this was insincere and seemed more like a gimmick to build a better economic ties with Hong Kong.
 
She said that although Duterte was duly elected, his manner of governing is like that of a dictator. High-level security arrangements were made to protect him from protesters and only his supporters were welcomed at the gathering in Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.
 
The South China Morning Post reported that three university students who had been cleared to attend the meeting were prevented from boarding a shuttle bus to Kai Tak at Yau Tong MTR station by consulate staff. They had been planning to hand in a petition calling on Manila to reconsider the recall of Jalilo Dela Torre, the country’s labour attaché in Hong Kong.  
 
Hung added that she did not understand the need for raised the terror threat level during Duterte’s visit and questioned the reasons given by the police. She said roadblocks in Kowloon Bay and Tsimshatsui caused serious disturbance and believed the police had abused their authority in asking people to leave their offices early.
 
Eman Villanueva, of the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body, said he believes many still feel bad about how the Aquino administration handled the bus hijack and its weak response to the demand for apology, but said the mea culpa came too late as time has passed and people are no longer as emotional about it. 
 
He said he and his fellow migrant rights advocates never planned to join the gathering at Kai Tak as the programme arranged by the consulate would not give them a chance to discuss pressing issues. In addition, from what he heard from those who joined the gathering, which started around 2.00pm, the first four to five hours were dominated by politicians campaigning for the senatorial elections in May next year. 
 
“They merely used the event to conduct advance electoral campaigning. And it is at the people’s expense because the event was paid for by the government,” he told the Sunday Examiner on April 13.
 
Villanueva said the tight security showed the president’s unwillingness to listen to the real voice of the people. So, to “welcome” Duterte, he joined a protest with 70 others from migrant organisations as well as rights groups at around 11.00am in Tsimshatsui. He said the police first told them to hold the protest next to the MTR station in Salisbury Road. However, after some negotiating, they were allowed to move a bit closer, in front of the soon-to-be-demolished Mariner’s Club, so that they could be seen from the Inter-Continental Hotel, where Duterte stayed during his three-day visit.
 
Protesters compared the Duterte administration to a tyranny, as his war on drugs has resulted in the slaughter of more than 13,000 mostly poor Filipinos in less than two years.
 
Avery Ng Man-yuen, chairperson of the League of Social Democrats, said Hong Kong people should not welcome a murderous president to the city, considering thousands of deaths from his mindless war on drugs, displacement and killings due to militarisation and bombings in rural areas and arbitrary arrests of activists. “Duterte is destroying democracy in the Philippines. We Hong Kong people must say something instead of letting Duterte have a three-day holiday here,” he said.
 
Father Franco Mella said during the protest, that two of his friends were killed under Duterte’s lawless regime and he urged him to stop his tyranny.
 
On the other hand, Dolores Balladares, of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, pointed out that 6,000 overseas workers are still leaving the country every day because Duterte cannot give them the jobs he promised.

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