AFTER expressing shame and cowering from the backlash over the mishandling by the police of the Rizal park hostage-taking incident last week, when will we decide to draw the line between rightfully enduring the flogging and standing up to possible abuse?

This question has to be asked because of the possibility that we—both the Aquino administration and the Filipino people—-might so become remorseful we leave ourselves defenseless to unjustifiable attacks.

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Consider that years of being colonized by foreign powers and the country’s impoverished state have instilled in us a mentality that surfaces in our government’s lack of assertiveness and its being too apologetic in our dealings with other countries.

It also surfaces in our being timid to a fault and to overly bash ourselves for mistakes that make us look bad in the eyes of outsiders.

Being assertive

Philippine authorities did err badly in dealing with last week’s hostage crisis and are therefore obligated to offer their sincere apologies to Hong Kong for the death of eight of its people.

But they must also make sure they don’t become too wimpish in facing the backlash, especially one that hurts overseas Filipino workers.

That incident was not a conspiracy by the Filipino people to murder Chinese nationals.

It was an act by a disgruntled police official whose target was his government, not the tourists in the bus he commandeered.

This, we take it, is being understood by sober-minded Hong Kong people, like actor Jackie Chan. But there are some sectors that are fueling passions, thereby endangering the lives of Filipino workers there.

Drawing the line

While the Philippine government deserves criticism for the failure of Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang to reach President Noynoy Aquino by phone at the height of the crisis, that does not mean we have to grovel to Chinese and Hong Kong officials now.

Cancelling the planned trip to Beijing and Hong Kong last week of a high-level Philippine delegation was the right thing to do when Chinese and Hong Kong officials snubbed our government’s request sent last week.

And the justice department was correct in its insistence on letting a Hong Kong police team, which was sent to the country to conduct its own probe on the incident, follow protocol before doing their thing here.

We apologize for our failings and endure the backlash for these, but should draw the line between honest reaction to the incident and abuse.