(Photo Courtesy: http://www.todayonline.com)

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been in the receiving end of debasing criticisms from the time he entered the Presidential derby. He has been called “taga bundok” and one who lacks decency by people in filmdom who themselves wallow in the murk of indecency.

An ex-diplomat who felt she is the guru of foreign affairs chided him for tongue-lashing US President Barack Obama who tactlessly called his attention on alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines. And there is this bacchanalian ex-President who described Duterte as lacking in diplomatic savvy.

But this man from the boondocks is loved by his people, a popularity that BBC Hard Talk host Stephen Sakur described as devoutly wished by other leaders in the world. There must something in his “profanities” that deliver a strong message to heads of states.

He was accorded a red carpet reception in Beijing and in Moscow courtesy of Pres. Xi Jinping and Pres. Vladimir Putin respectively while the lines between him and US President Donald Trump are always open and exchanges are always on a personal level and among equals.

If that will not boggle the mind, Japan’s erstwhile Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Davao City and was overwhelmed by the extremely intimate reception he had and where he had a glimpse of the rustic lifestyle of the Philippine President.

The grumbling opposition finds President Duterte so difficult to read. He had crafted a foreign affairs policy that had virtually departed from the norm of dependency that invites abuse and ridicule.

A cabal of former officials led by ex-Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario and griping legal eggheads Antonio Carpio and a horde of others had been egging Duterte to invoke the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration that they say invalidated China claim over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

It was not the fault of the Duterte administration how China managed to take control of the Scarborough. It was in fact the Aquino government and specifically del Rosario, who ordered Philippine Navy to withdraw from the disputed islands. The matter was eventually elevated to PCA which ruled in favor of delegalizing China’s “nine-dash line” conflicting with our claims.

But the question has always been – is the ruling enforceable? The opposition had been prodding Duterte and have been saber-rattling. Instead of heeding their call, the President instead went on high-level bilateral talks with China which had defused tensions and our fishermen going back to the traditional fishing grounds in WPS.

Our trade with China has always been vibrant despite the pandemic.

One oft-repeated cryptic repartee of President Duterte each time he is goaded to raise the arbitral ruling in his engagements with his Chinese counterpart is by invoking his favorite biblical Ecclesiastical canto: “There is a time for everything”.

On cautions of friends for him to stay safe on account of the Covid pandemic, he merely brushed it off saying: “there is a time to live and a time to die”. On the matter of the arbitral ruling he would just quip: “there is time to be silent and a time to speak”.

And he spoke at the proper time and in an appropriate venue.

But that does not mean that he has pulled the saber from the scabbard. Duterte will pursue the dispute via bilateral talks. In peace, there are too many options and possibilities.

Remember China had agreed to a joint venture with the Philippines to explore the oil deposits in the West Philippine Sea on a 60/40 agreement in favor of the Philippines?

Then there is the possibility of putting up a marine research laboratory in one island with the two countries fielding their marine scientists to propagate and sustain the abundance of resources for fishermen from China, the Philippines, Vietnam among others not only for this the present but for the future generations.

Red tagging, how else?

Dealing with a different kind of communists us becoming more complicated. What happened when “red” does not want to be called red?

Why are the members of party-list groups identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines so pregnant complaining about red-tagging?

For one thing, no one goes to jail now for adherence to communist ideology. It has long been “legalized” under Republic Act 7636 which was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on September 22, 1992, barely three months after he assumed the Presidency from Cory Aquino.

The purpose of the decriminalization was in luring back members of Jose Ma. Sison’s CPP and its armed elements, the New People’s Army, and Satur Ocampo’s National Democratic Front to give up its armed struggle and participate in peaceful governance.

The entry point of the government was to allow party-list organizations to participate in the election process by listing sectors in the society which were perceived to be marginalized. So many shades of ideological persuasions began to represent the urban poor, the peasants and human rights activists to name a few.

A good number of them comprise the so-called Makabayan bloc which are commonly-known referred to as legal fronts of the communist movement in the Philippines or the leftists.

The sublime irony of the decriminalization of Communism is that while they are allowed to participate in the political processes it has maintained its armed militia, the New Peoples Army, assaulting government forces, harassing civilians, exacting so-called revolutionary taxes on construction firms and agricultural enterprises in remote communities and occupying the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples.

They have not ceased from recruiting members from vulnerable groups and converting ideologues in university campuses and sending them to the hinterlands to beef up their armed revolutionaries. It has become a pattern that campus activists who had vehemently denied their ties with the “reds” only ended up later dead or wounded in armed encounters with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The series of peace negotiations which the government had with CPP-NPA-NDF in the faraway Netherlands where the communist supremo, Joma Sison, holds fort had been for naught. He has even internationalized his fronts into the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS).

Each time the talks are about to come to fruition, Joma recoils and resorts to double talk. They have not abandoned armed conflict.

Joma out-smarted and out-witted the government in that the legal fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF are still ensconced in Congress enjoying all the perks that other congressmen have.

In a stinging rebuke of Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, “the party-list system is the milking cow of terrorists”.

The CPP-NPA-NDF has a flag of its own – a bold RED with hammer and sickle emblazoned in it. Red is always the symbol of the cabal and you see the streets turn red whenever members of the party-list groups, its legal fronts, hold rallies against the government.

Red tag? How else?

No less than Sison had acknowledged them in a video archive available on YouTube.

The NPAs even paint their faces red while during their anniversary celebrations.

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