MANILA, Philippines?Angry messages from Hong Kong residents flooded the official Facebook page of President Benigno Aquino III hours after Monday night?s hostage drama that claimed the lives of eight tourists from the Chinese territory.
More than 663 comments about the hostage drama were posted on Aquino?s wall as of 6:10 p.m. Wednesday, many of which were critical about the handling of the crisis.
A number commented on Mr. Aquino?s smile at a press conference he called at around midnight of Monday, more than three hours after the hostage crisis ended.
?Shame on you, you were smiling in the press conference, the whole world has witnessed what the police and SWAT did. No more HK people traveling to the Philippines,? Cliff Cheung said.
Sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza hijacked a busload of Hong Kong tourists in a crazed bid to get his job back. Eight of the passengers were killed when commandos attempted to storm the bus more than 10 hours into the ordeal.
Amid the criticisms raining down on him, Mr. Aquino on Wednesday issued an apology.
?If I offended certain people, I apologize to them. Obviously, there was no joy in attending to that situation,? the President said at a news conference, the second he had given since the hostage drama ended in tragedy.
He asked for understanding from the people of Hong Kong after Facebook members in the Chinese territory called him ?a dog? and urged him to resign in connection with published images that showed him smiling while inspecting a bus where the tourists died.
Mr. Aquino said his smile might have been misunderstood. ?I have several expressions. I smile when I?m happy. I smile when I?m faced with a very absurd situation where I cannot vent my own emotions,? he said.
Kimberly Chiu Po Yee appealed to Mr. Aquino to get serious and train the police. ?Don?t smile in front of the camera after a tragedy has happened,? she said.
Commented Ca Phil: ?Just note that we are angry because he is the one who is not respecting us! People are dead, and how dare he smile while he is doing [his so-called apology]? That?s what we can?t ever accept! We don?t want to be harsh on you guys or even on your president, but we are very very very angry with this!?
Steve Lai expressed his hate. ?Why did you smile in the press conference? Do you know what you are doing, idiot? Your incompetent policemen and government claimed at least eight precious lives!?
Norris Kan, who lives in Hong Kong, said he had great respect for Mr. Aquino. ?Now I am so disappointed that you can still be smiling during the press conference and on the scene after ten (sic) hostages were killed on the bus Wednesday because of the extremely bad action of your police force.
?I am also angry that your government and police force did not do their best to protect the Hong Kong people in the hijacking. It is a sad day for Hong Kong and a lot of people are crying today. Please be serious and I really hope that you can give us an apology and incident report ASAP,? Kan said.
Anna Yeung said she thought Mr. Aquino felt no regret for the tragedy because he was smiling when he was reporting about it and when he inspected the crime scene.
The President visited the crime scene in Rizal Park and took a close look at the bus on Tuesday.
John Chea called Mr. Aquino ?useless,? while Kit Cheung said he was ?not suitable for the position? and should just step down.
Howard Ng asked, ?Most of the Hong Kong people do not hate Filipino people. We are just very angry with your president and police force. Just think about it, is that the police force you want??
Some netizens focused on the impact the crisis, which was televised around the world, would have on the Philippines? reputation internationally.
?(T)ransmitted live via satellite show all over the world: The police so dumb and lack of skill, equipment and training etc.,? Albert Au wrote.
Several Filipino Facebook users stepped in in an effort to stop the war of words. However, Enrique Alejandro G. Delacour just made things worse by insulting an entire nation: ?Why even bother trying to ?make a statement? by cursing our President when you can?t even speak proper English you ignorant Chinese c**ts??
He continued: ?Clearly he isn?t directly responsible for the tragedies that unfolded Wednesday [Monday], and yet has still expressed his deepest condolences to those victimized by psychopaths (which I may add are present in every country and I?m certain are in relative abundance in your ?amazing? city of Hong Kong).
?We as a people cannot be held directly responsible for the actions of one impulsive decision made by an individual who is clearly not in a stable state of mind at the time of the occurrence,? he added.
?If you want to insult someone, have a go at the real criminals and not express prejudice and derogatory remarks to our President and our nation.?
Melo Ponce de Leon said a whole country should not be blamed for one very unfortunate incident.
?It could happen to anyone, anywhere! The President has already given his apology. I feel sorry for the victims of this incident, but most of all I feel sorry for the small-minded people who keep on talking and would rather incite violence!? De Leon said.
As the hours passed, however, heads seemed to have cooled and the hatred was replaced by sympathy, words of condolence and a call for prayers.
?I feel very sorry for the deceased, not only for my fellow Hong Kong citizens, but for the hostage-taker as well,? said Georgina Fung.
?This tragedy was completely caused by the corrupted police force and authority of your country. Your fellow Filipino people do deserve a better Philippines with justice and peace,? Fung said.
Several, Hong Kong nationals and Filipinos alike, posted the messages ?My deepest condolence and prayers to the families of the victims? and ?Let us pray for the souls of the victims who died in the tragedy.?
Sense of understanding
Mr. Aquino said he understood the Hong Kong people?s outrage, which has been expressed through protests in front of the Philippine Consulate in the territory and in a much large scale through Facebook and Twitter.
?We ask for their sense of understanding. None of us wanted this,? said the President, who declared Wednesday a national day of mourning in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong and the bereaved families of the dead.
He said Philippine authorities wanted the safety of the hostages more than anything else. ?Our primary consideration was the hostages,? he said.
In his own Facebook account, Mr. Aquino called on Filipinos to refrain from needlessly engaging critics in the social networking site.
?We have already read and heard many complaints and opinions by our countrymen and even affected foreigners. May we request that we refrain from engaging in these debates if it is unnecessary,? he said on his Facebook wall.
?Let us show that we Filipinos know how to respect and understand. Thank you very much,? he added.
Administrators of President?s Facebook site decided to delete Wednesday night slanderous and defamatory posts, offensive comments, cuss words and racial insults, below-the-belt attacks and allegations against anyone or any company and advertisements or links to any person, group or company. With a report from Agence France-Presse