By Jun Ledesma
Filipinos are either enamored with the probinsyano President Rodrigo Duterte or regard him with contemptuous ill will.
His idiosyncracies disturb the ways of traditional politicians, thus we see a clash of sentiments among those who trust and approve of Duterte’s leadership style and those who do not.
When a number of Presidential Security Guards tested positive to Covid-19, the 76-year old President has to be isolated. He quarantined himself in Malacanang. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Spokesperson Harry Roque were also infected and had to be confined.
I would imagine Malacañang became a virtual spawning ground of coronavirus and therefore needed to be thoroughly sanitized.
If CNN Philippines, which trivialized a fake photo of the President on a wheelchair, ceased broadcasting to disinfect its studios why not the office of the Chief Executive? The President canceled a scheduled public address and thereafter was promptly sheltered from guests to include the Malacanang press.
His sole company was a long-time confidant and executive assistant and now Senator Bong Go.
His disappearance elicited rumors that the President is sick and must have been infected with Covid. Even vice president Leni Robredo could not resist fanning the flame while eagerly salivating as she waited on the bend.
This is a free country after all. If Digong were a congee cook he can only please 91 out of a hundred people as 9 would prefer Leni Robredo’s lugaw.
But that would not just end there.
Enter the dysfunctional opposition
Call it “Oust Duterte cabal”, “rabid black propagandists” “dilawans”, “1sambayan”, “destabilizers” or “xenophobic clique”. When you put them all together you see the same faces.
It’s a coterie of whatever is left of the straggling political opposition, the legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its Red Army -the New People’s Army, religious bigots, and dissidents who are funded by the West to stir the hornet’s nest in the West Philippines Sea.
This cabal is desperate and so are their sponsors they have weaved all fiendish plots to manipulate public opinion on President Rodrigo Duterte to oust him and to deter the rise of yet another Duterte-backed administration.
Duterte is the only President of the Philippines who appeared on TV weekly to address the nation. When he deferred his appearance for a week, all sorts of innuendos cropped up laced with ill will and frustration he was alive and kicking.
Now they conjured another lie which they spread across the globe. The top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including those who had retired from service, have withdrawn their support from President Duterte over the handling of the conflict with China on the claims of islands in the West Philippine Sea. The AFP generals had vehemently denied that. The AFP never had it so good even the opposition begrudge that.
As if that was not enough they sowed fear and apprehension by spreading fake stories that warplanes have been landing and taking off from Clark Field (which used to be an American airbase). This is of course a serious case of hallucination from a very sick mind.
We can live with these fakeries but these diabolic propagandas have reached our Overseas Filipino Workers and Pinoys who have migrated elsewhere. It creates anxiety even though it is blatantly farcical.
On the other hand, China and the Philippines are confronted with this conflict of claims of islands in the West Philippine Seas – the Spratly and Scarborough. It’s actually multi-lateral claims that involve not only the Philippines and China but Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. What drives these countries to claim the islands are their rich marine ecosystem, gas and oil deposits, and ideal location for military strategies.
We chickened out
On a sad note, the Philippines lost Scarborough Shoal to China after a controversial standoff in 2012 when the Aquino administration ordered the pullout of the Philippine Navy ship Gregorio del Pilar out of the area. It was not even former president Noynoy Aquino nor his defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin who did that. It was his foreign affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario, another proof how disorderly our order of battle was at that time.
China stood pat and took control of the area and thereafter strictly regulated Filipino fishermen from Scarborough, also known as Panatag Shoal.
So what did the idiots do?
Aquino III sent Del Rosario and Justice Antonio Carpio to the Hague to organize a private arbitration panel under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in an expensive exercise costing almost a billion pesos just to maneuver to recover the islet.
The Philippines won but it was an empty victory because China refused to participate. Says Ambassador Rosario Manalo, with China and the Philippines opting out of the compulsory provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), they can only resolve their conflict via voluntary arbitration.
When one party declines, however, the only party who are happy are the ‘judges’ of the PCA because they still stood to receive fat honoraria on a “done” deal. Such was the case of what Carpio and del Rosario boasted that the jurors ruled a victory for the Philippines.
Fast forward, ex-Justice Antonio Carpio and ex-Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario and the opposition are now blaming Duterte for repercussions of their in competence and foolishness by saber-rattling for the help of Uncle Sam to go to war against China.
We hoi polloi are overwhelmed by the magma of arguments and discourses about the Philippines’ position over “the West Philippine Sea, our sovereign territory, and the exclusive economic zone.”
The explanation of Ambassador Manalo is simple, concise, and straightforward, and we have to reckon with the positions of other claimants especially that of China.
Walking on the right foot
Duterte and China’s President Xi Jinping started on the right foot. They set aside the issue of the PCA judgment and agreed to iron out kinks via bilateral talks. The series of engagements in just a short period of time between the two leaders had resulted in unprecedented progressive developments.
For me, one of the most significant proposals that emerged from these talks is for the two countries to enter into a joint exploration of the so-called West Philippine Sea.
After all the razzmatazz over the WPS it is really not about the fishes and clams but the trillions of barrels and gas that lie beneath the WPS.
It was a 60/40 sharing term in favor of the Philippines. I really cannot understand why China and the Philippines are hedging in pursuing this partnership as this would serve as a shot-in-our-arm for the crises we are confronted with in that this will boost the Philippine economy which has languished due to the pandemic.
Moreover, with China’s affirmation it will bolster our claims for sovereign rights over that feature of the South China Seas.
We abhor war. China will not start one as this will effectively close its major trade route and jeopardize its burgeoning economy that had surpassed America. Make no mistake about that.
Only America wants to destabilize the region, so it can divide and rule tens of thousands of miles from its western shores. For the US, it is the only means to stop the economic dominance and juggernaut of China.
For its bigoted minions in the Philippines and the moribund opposition, it is their only hope for survival.
Be aware and beware.