MANILA, Philippines?The head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday prayed for justice and strength for the victims of Monday's bloody hostage episode in Manila and appealed to the international community not to take the tragedy, in which eight Hong Kong and Canadian tourists were killed, against the Filipinos.
"Although as they may say this is an isolated case, this incident does not reflect the peace-loving attitude of the Filipinos," said Bishop Nereo Odchimar, CBCP president, in a brief statement over the Catholic Church's Radio Veritas.
"I hope the international community will not put this against the Filipino," said Odchimar.
Public outrage in Hong Kong grew against Philippine authorities over the handling handling by the police of the hostage crisis. The Hong Kong government has also demanded that Manila conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and provide it with a detailed report of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Malacañang has appealed to Hong Kong residents not to vent their anger over the hostage crisis on the Filipinos working in the territory.
Fr. Robert Reyes, who works with the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, said the hostage crisis was expected to have repercussions on the Filipinos working in the Chinese territory.
He said that the tragedy could only fuel more discrimination and abuse of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
"Even without the violent hostage-taking several Filipinos here are already suffering from discrimination and abuse and the incident may be used to justify more of the latter," said Reyes in a text message to reporters on Wednesday.
He added, "We need wise, proactive thinking to respond appropriately and honestly without pushing the panic button."
Odchimar, who is the Roman Catholic bishop of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, said he prayed that justice be served to the victims and their families and that those who survived the tragedy be able to recover from it.
"We ask the Lord of Peace, the spirit of peace and brotherhood to lead justice to everyone," said Odchimar.
He also prayed for strength and hope for those who survived the hostage crisis "because it would take sometime before they be able to regain their composure and their psychological stability."
At least eight Hong Kong tourists?the Department of Foreign Affairs said later that five of them were also holders of Canadian passports?-were killed after sacked Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza seized a tourist bus with 25 people aboard and demanded that the Ombudsman reverse his dismissal on extortion charges two years ago.
The standoff ended in a carnage 11 hours later with police troops assaulting the bus and killing the gunman after he fired at the passengers with his armalite.