My February 1, 2015 column.
It is difficult not to get furious at the death of the 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police at the hands of people we are supposed to be negotiating a peace agreement with.  The feeling turns into outrage when we consider the circumstances that led to their death and the subsequent bungled attempts to explain, and then to make amends, for what happened.   We claim to be a nation of heroes but sadly do not seem to know how to treat heroes with  dignity until after it is too late. 
This recent tragedy called to mind what happened in August 2010 when eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a disastrously bungled hostage incident at the Rizal Park in Manila.   The senseless tragedy happened because of lack of coordination and a seeming recklessness bordering on stupidity among those we expected to know better.   To make matters worse, both tragedies were aggravated by a monumental lack of empathy on the part of our leaders who didn’t seem to know how to behave in crisis situations.  Small wonder, really, that it took years before the people of Hong Kong were able to forgive our leaders.
Last Wednesday was a time when the nation groped for answers.  It was a time when we wished the leader of the country acted with moral courage – to claim ultimately responsibility as Commander in chief, and to promise deliberate and swift action to deliver justice.   But as usual, we had more of the obfuscation and the tiresome attempts to focus the attention somewhere else. When the bodies of the fallen arrived in Manila on Thursday, we expected the President to be right there at the tarmac to receive them, to lead the nation in paying tribute to their heroism and to show their families that they had the support and prayers of the whole country behind them.  We were all sorely disappointed.
Just as disappointing was the way many of our politicians inserted themselves into the frame shamelessly milking the tragedy to advance their own political agenda. 
But perhaps most disappointing was the way many of our leaders rode the bandwagon and reacted rashly either by withdrawing their support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law or calling for outright war.  This is a difficult period for the nation as we try to make sense of the tragedy that turned the 44 police officers into sacrificial lambs for an inchoate cause but the last thing we expect our leaders to do is to react blindly based on emotions.  Now more than ever we need leaders who will stand as beacons of reason and wisdom, people who shed light rather than ignite anger.


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