China-backed presidential bet possible in 2022 — experts

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com
China-backed presidential bet possible in 2022 â experts
In this Aug. 30, 2019 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping witness the program proper during the opening ceremony of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, China.
Presidential Photo / Robinson Niñal Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — Experts warned that China might interfere in the 2022 national elections by supporting a presidential candidate.

Retired Rear. Adm. Rommel Jude Ong, former vice commander of the Philippine Navy, said the forthcoming elections may end up becoming a contest with China.

"If we want to counter China's sharp power, then we should prepare for the national elections in 2022. If we deny our share of responsibility as citizens in reserving our way of life, then we might face an electoral contest not among political parties but against China's preferred candidates," Ong said in a virtual discussion organized by Stratbase ADRi on Tuesday.

In the same virtual discussion, former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario noted that China has "contempt for weak nations" so the Philippines would have to stand up to Beijing.

"There will be more than two Manchurian candidates so whoever they field, we have to unite under one candidate," Del Rosario said.

Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said these fears are valid as China now has an "army of trolls" in Philippine cyberspace.

China's online trolls making comments on the country's online news sites would influence the decision of Filipino voters, he added.

"They can also contribute funds to candidates of their choice so this threat of China interfering our 2022 elections is very real," Carpio said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart" Thursday morning.

'Bring up West Philippine Sea during elections'

To counter China's possible interference with the 2022 elections, Carpio said the West Philippine Sea issue should be brought up.

China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea overlaps with the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

While the Philippines won an arbitral award in July 2016 invalidating Beijing's nine-dash line claim, the Duterte administration set aside the landmark ruling to seek loans and investments with China.

"We must make sure that the new president will defend faithfully, sincerely our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea," Carpio said.

"We cannot take the chance of a candidate promising to jet ski to Scarborough Shoal and after he gets elected he will say 'I was just joking,'" he added.

During one of the presidential debates in 2016, Duterte promised to ride a jet ski to a disputed island occupied by Cina in the West Philippine Sea and plant the Philippine flag to assert the country's claims.

The president later on said his campaign promise was not serious.

"When I said I would go to China on a jet ski, that's nonsense. I don't even have… It's just talk. I'm surprised you believed it," Duterte said in March 2018.

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