Many of us can’t restrain ourselves from street partying and exploding firecrackers on New Year’s Eve. To not be a complete nuisance, can we please:
• Hold off the lighting of firecrackers till towards midnight, to enable infants and toddlers, the aged and the sick, and house pets, some respite from noise and smoke;
• Refrain from destructive firecrackers that can tear up asphalt overlays or shatter windows or ignite trees, and certainly from firing guns;
• Prepare water hoses and first-aid kits to douse out family members and friends who might get burned or injured in the wild revelry;
• Pick up and bag our litter, and not rely on neighbors or street sweepers or park caretakers to clean up after us; and
• Over noche buena, pray as hard for the less fortunate as for the self, for a brighter year ahead.
One of the best New Year resolutions is to start thinking of others as much as we think of ourselves.
* * *
Professional squatters usually work in syndicate. Using fake titles and maps they grab large tracts of land and waterways from real owners. For semblance of possession they build fences and passageways, workplaces and shelters. They refuse appeals to prove their rights in court, for they know they would lose against the true owners. Instead they employ armed bands to enforce their land-grab, and publicists to distort the truth. Respecting no one, they flout the law and public outrage. They delay inevitable eviction with blarney or harassment. Meantime, they profit from the illegal takeover, by directly exploiting resources or by subletting.
There are a billion squatters worldwide, mostly penurious and landless, and only a handful of land-grab syndicates. The biggest of the latter is China’s dictatorial party.
China uses baseless ancient rights and maps to lay claim to the entire South China Sea and scores of islets, shoals, and reefs. Such claim goes against geologic science and international law, particularly freedom of navigation. But China is unperturbed. It also ignores verified historical accounts and maps, particularly of Vietnam and the Philippines, about the Paracel and the Spratly archipelagoes and landforms abutting their shores. It flouts the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, even if it is a signatory, by disrespecting the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of the two countries, and of Malaysia and Brunei.
China has built military facilities in three of the islets and reefs, feigning at first to be doing so for fishermen of all nations. In pretense of true ownership, its navy patrols the seawaters, as if that would make genuine its unfounded nine-dash line map. Recently it clashed with Vietnamese sailors in the Paracels, and harassed Filipino marine surveyors and fishermen in the Recto Bank and Panatag Shoal.
The Philippines has challenged China to settle the claim once and for all before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. But China refuses. It knows it has no chance of winning. That’s why it uses instead armed might and guile, including putting up traitorous public officials and pseudo-journalists as spokesmen. Because the Philippines refuses to be cowered or fooled, China also employs trade and tourism embargoes. It plays deaf to world opinion about its undiplomatic breaks of UN pacts, and mobilizes vassal states to thwart those that stand up to it.
China chatters about a supposed peaceful economic rise and joint use of the disputed area. But all that aims only to avoid peaceful resolution. One cannot expect peace from an avaricious bully-squatter whose real intent is to build an invisible Great Wall across the Pacific Ocean.
Like a true professional squatter, China is ravaging the sea like there’s no tomorrow. Fake owners think not of conserving resources in the grabbed territory. China scours the sea of marine life, even endangered species, for food and ornaments. It is slurping petroleum from offshore wells close to Vietnam, and has leased out parts of these to privateers. Nonstop too is the search for undersea minerals and rare-earth metals.
* * *
FEEDBACK. Jorge Matanguihan, Makahoy, Batangas: “Your December 28 column on the differing accuracy ratings of the PCOS mock election reveals another facet of the controversy. Smartmatic claimed high accuracy based on its formula; critics graded it low based on the minimum requirement of law. Clearly they used different parameters, which was lacking from the PCOS lease contract. The new purchase contract should specify the formula to be used for accuracy testing.”
Wilson Y. Lee: “It is unacceptable that the PCOS and manual counts of only 83 of 197 candidates matched in the mock election last July. In our IT practice of testing, we do not allow even one missing centavo in balancing amounts reaching hundreds of millions of pesos. Even if it happens only once in hundreds of tests, we would look for the cause of the missing centavo. It’s a sign of a program bug, and we will fix it. Too bad the Comelec does not heed IT professionals!
Manuel Bondad: “Your timely piece on the PCOS inaccuracies has caught the attention of the Catholic bishops. I wish my uncle, election lawyer Pete Q. Cuadra, were still alive. He would have made a reliable resource person for the Comelec (headed by a former election lawyer). Other such lawyers have said their piece.”
* * *
Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).