AN OPEN LETTER ON THE HOSTAGE CRISIS
BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES
6 September 2010
TO OUR FELLOW FILIPINOS HERE AND ABROAD,
TO ALL MEN AND WOMEN OF GOODWILL EVERYWHERE:
For us, Filipinos, 23 August 2010, now known all over the world as the “Philippine hostage crisis” will forever stand as a very dark day in our people’s history. On this fateful day, a former police officer hijacked a tour bus in Rizal Park, Manila, carrying 25 tourists from Hong Kong, including 5 Canadian nationals and 1 British. At the end of a ten hour negotiation and siege, 8 hostages and the hijacker lay dead. Finger pointing, investigations, damage control, continue to take place even now. Blunders in the negotiations and in the assault have been pointed out and admitted. As Filipinos we are ashamed. It is as though we are now afraid to face the world.
But let us “not be taken aback at the testing by fire which is taking place” among us (1Pt. 4: 12). Let us remember that we also had our brightest moments as a nation, when the whole world acclaimed us for our heroism to defend our country and for our determined courage to restore our democracy. These are peak moments in our history that must inspire us. We are not an undisciplined nation staggering in blunder and chaos. We are a nation with a proud heritage of righteousness, of heroism and discipline. It is from this Filipino heritage that with God’s grace we shall overcome our shame and shout with pride, “Let us rise and move on.” With the Lord we must persevere and we shall surely “not lose heart and come to grief” (see Heb.:12: 3).
But we have to begin with confession. We admit with great sadness the grave inadequacies in the entire process of the hostage crisis, negotiating, decision-making, media role, communicating, coordinating, and assaulting. With transparency our government must thoroughly and impartially investigate every inadequacy to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
We express our deep grief with the families of the victims. We are truly numbed by the tragedy that has befallen visitors in our own land. Deeply tragic, indeed, was the great loss, and made more so by the knowledge that it could have been avoided. Even as our shame is deep, our grief and sympathy with the bereaved families are beyond words.
We assure you, the grieving families of victims as well as all men and women of good will here and abroad, that the true heart of the Filipino is demonstrated not by the fatal inadequacies of the few, but by the great human and professional qualities of the many.
Kindly observe the thousands upon thousands of Filipinos working abroad. With great love and sacrifice they are taking care of families, children, and old people in various parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore, and in many other parts of the world. They are contributing their professional skills towards the economic development of other countries. In them you will see the true heart of the Filipino.
We ask our brother bishops in other countries to communicate this message to their people.
In the Lord,
(Signed) + Nereo P. Odchimar, DD
Bishop of Tandag