The aftermath of the Luneta hostage crisis has spawned its own set of crisis, with several dimensions. One dimension is the one within the new Aquino government: the conflicting and unwieldy relations among Malacañang communicators, its command over the PNP, relations with the Manila local government, and its crisis handling capability. Another dimension is the security forces’ hostage-handling protocol, command and leadership skills, and infrastructure/logistics problems. A third and potentially more dangerous dimension is the international one–relations with China/Hongkong, backlash on the overseas Filipinos in Hongkong, and Philippine image impact. Related to this is the impact on the tourism industry, export industry, and other service industries, especially those dealing with Hongkong and Chinese companies. An opportunistic political crisis–spawned by the opposition GMA-identified forces–has also risen and threatens to derail the reform agenda of the Aquino administration by trying to undermine its popularity with the people.
The Aquino government now has its its first multi-front political crisis. In this situation, a crisis center (much as it dislikes the past administration’s style) is called for. One needs a 24-hour monitoring center. Second is the formation of reliable, competent crisis committee(s)–depending on the nature, gravity and requirements of the various crises. Ad hoc arrangements work only when there is already a pre-planned list of these people and committees. At the top of the list are political strategists–those who know the political implications of every decision and can determine the political framework of various solutions.
There are evidently forces riding on the Luneta hostage crisis. One are the various international actors who have their own political agenda, not the least of which is the Hongkong government itself. The GMA opposition is another; it conveniently forgot its own share in the similar incidences in the past and their own irresponsibility in the weak political and police capability today. There are also infighting within the Aquino administration trying to make hay while others are in trouble.
The Aquino administration also has a problem with the erstwhile friendly media. The latter does not have a non-partisan role in its pursuit of the news scope–it is part of the problem in the hostage crisis and media people should accept this failing. The need for strict guidance for media should be recognized by both government and media.
The challenge for the Aquino government is not the hostage crisis and its botched ending. The latter is subject to investigation and responsibilities can be determined. The substantive political crisis is the viability of current administration in terms of popularity and actual political clout. It has to demonstrate that it is on top of things and that no other political force can take advantage of the situation.
There is no political honeymoon for President Noynoy. It’s war from day One. It has to reassess its options and decisively take action. Its worst enemy now is caution and delay. Procrastination in leadership is its own worst enemy.