OUTSTANDING in its incompetence was the police response to the hostage-taking by a former police officer of the busload of Hong Kong tourists last Monday. Despite the cocky assurances of police spokespersons that they had “everything under control,” exactly how in control they were was evident in the aftermath of the crisis.
Nine people are dead including the hostage- taker, eight of the dead mostly tourists from Hong Kong, which was the most grievous consequence of the colossal stupidity that apparently afflicts an institution whose demonstrated expertise is limited to torture. Incidental to this loss of lives, for which every human being must mourn, is the confirmation, in the past usually denied by government officials pretending outrage, of the near universal belief that the Philippines is a dangerous place whether for tourists, foreign investors, or, lest we forget, Filipinos themselves.
THE DESIGNATION of two cabinet secretaries to oversee the communication operations of the Aquino administration seems to be the result of Mr. Aquino’s attempt to accommodate, appease, calm, or whatever, the factions to which former broadcaster Ricky Carandang and former Transportation undersecretary Herminio Coloma belong.
The existence of these factions among others has been noted in the press community since the campaign for the May 10 elections, and most particularly when former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay won the vice presidency over Manuel Roxas II. Neither has confirmed or denied it: Carandang, who’s now in charge of putting together Mr. Aquino’s messages, is with the group that supported Roxas, while Coloma, who now oversees the government TV station NBN 4 and the sequestered stations IBC 13 and RPN 9, is with the faction that supported Binay for the vice presidency.
THE 2009 Ampatuan town or Maguindanao Massacre provoked, among other reactions, a warning that the Philippine state is on the verge of failure, or might have already failed.
The Failed States Index of a US-based organization called the Fund for Peace was suddenly on many people’s lips as well as in some columns and blogs. The Index is an annual monitor of some 178 countries, which it ranks according to how high the threat of state failure is: red for “alert,” meaning the states in the category have already failed; orange for “warning,” meaning the states so labeled display some of the indicators of state failure and could fail unless it takes appropriate steps; pale orange for states under “moderate” threat of failure; and green for states that are “sustainable.”
AS THE CONCEPT has evolved, a truth commission is tasked with investigating and revealing wrongdoing by a past government, or a succession of governments. Its formation, as in Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Peru and El Salvador — the countries where truth commissions have been most successful — is driven by the scale of the misdeeds. Because of these offenses’ impact on society they have to be documented, their perpetrators identified, and if necessary prosecuted.
In Chile, South Africa, Argentina, Peru and El Salvador, the mission of the truth commissions was to determine the extent, causes and cases of state-sponsored crimes committed against the citizenry so that they may never again be repeated. They were also meant to identify and recommend prosecution of the guilty, and compensation for the victims and survivors, or their kin.