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Why the Philippines bus hostage crisis isn't over for President Aquino

Whether President Aquino takes action against government officials for their part in the Philippines bus hostage crisis will shape the country's international image.

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Philippines President Aquino speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, on Sept. 23.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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Philippines President Benigno Aquino III faces a double-edged crisis of leadership when he returns next week from seven days in the US.

Besieged by critics at home and abroad he's under severe pressure to show his ability to deal decisively with bitter recriminations over his response to the hostage tragedy in August in which a former police colonel killed eight Hong Kong tourists on a tour bus after an 11-hour standoff.

China, extremely critical of the way authorities in the Philippines responded to the episode, is demanding action against government, police, and military officials for failing to resolve the crisis before it ended in the massacre of Chinese citizens.

Now, however, influential Filipinos accuse Mr. Aquino of putting relations with China above the interests of his own country. They complain that Aquino turned over a full governmental report on the incident to the Chinese government before releasing it to his own citizens in hopes of getting Chinese officials to tone down complaints that have clearly soured relations between the two countries – and discouraged Chinese tourists from coming.

Nationalist sentiments have distracted from the investigation, but now Aquino must decide what to do about 13 people, including the powerful mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, whom a fact-finding commission recommends for disciplinary action. As questions about Aquino's competence mount, the severity of his response against those found responsible could have serious implications for his ability to lead.

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