It's not about me, Mr. President, it's about our countrymen'
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario pleaded Friday, Sep. 25, to President Rody Duterte:

"Yesterday the Palace, through its spokesperson, questioned our personal qualifications because of our humble suggestion to put in reality the President’s invocation of the Arbitral Ruling by rallying the support of other countries to enforce [it] against China.

"We wish to say that this is not about me. This is about our

countrymen and the West Philippine Sea.

"This is about China illegally seizing our lands and waters, which our forefathers fought for us and our children and grandchildren.

"This is about China taking our food, oil and gas that form part of our national patrimony reserved for Filipinos to help our country live and prosper.

"This is about our fishermen, whose livelihood are being taken away by China. A large number of them were rammed at sea and, were it not for our Vietnamese neighbors, mercilessly left to die in the water.

"This is about our coral reefs and breeding grounds of fish which took thousands of years to form and, in a short span of time, destroyed by China to construct its military facilities and artificial islands in the Spratlys.

"This is about our Constitution, which our officials have sworn to uphold, and which mandates our President and our military to secure our country’s sovereignty and protect our lands and seas.

"When China, in flagrant violation of international law was bullying our President with threats of war, where was the Palace Spokesperson?

"Throughout these years we have been calling upon our countrymen to unite and protect our West Philippine Sea. We continue to make this call and our respectful suggestion stands:

"Please, Mr. President, get the support of other countries to pressure China to comply with the Arbitral Ruling."

Del Rosario and retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio earlier praised Duterte for upholding the ruling at the United Nations General Assembly. To 192 fellow-heads of state Duterte had declared to "firmly reject attempts to undermine" Manila's 2016 arbitral victory against China's sea incursions. Del Rosario and Carpio, among others, had worked for the Philippine triumph at The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration. The court outlawed China's occupation of the Philippines' Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and concreting of seven reefs.

Duterte at first tried to appease China, for loans and investments that hardly came. Flouting the ruling, China starting 2016 placed missiles, fighters, bombers and warships in the seven reefs. It aims weapons at Air Force and Navy patrols in Philippine territory and exclusive economic zone. In one state visit to Beijing, Duterte said, President Xi Jinping threatened him with war if he insists on the verdict.

But last Wednesday in his first speech to the UN (via video), Duterte turned tough. "The Award is beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish, or abandon." Even political critics cheered Duterte's "new policy". The U.S., UK, France, Germany, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam earlier had supported the ruling.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque belittled Duterte's speech and the applause, however. "I don’t think it was a strong message," he said. "It was a restatement of an old existing policy. During the campaign the President said he won’t surrender even an inch of our territory. That is just consistent with the statement that he won’t give up our territories."

About del Rosario's suggestion, Roque harrumphed: "I do not know his special qualification for him to dictate on the President. During his time, we lost physical possession of Panatag. So, I don’t think he has much to show by way of his actual accomplishment as (foreign affairs) secretary. And all I can say is we should think of our qualifications before we dictate on the sitting President who is elected by the people."

In survey after survey, nine in ten Filipinos oppose China's sea incursions. Nine in ten Filipinos also want their government to repel it.

In his State of the Nation last July, Duterte said he is "inutil" (helpless, useless) about China's aggressions. To that del Rosario and Carpio at once suggested that he table before the General Assembly the verdict's enforcement. As well, to harness support from majority of UN members which, being coastal states, are benefited by the ruling against nuclear-armed sea aggressors. Del Rosario and Carpio called on Filipinos to rally around the President.

Yes-men prefer to circle the wagons. It projects weakness of the center, as if it needs insulation from outside ideas. Beijing commissars must be snickering that the presidential squawk box is dividing Filipinos, instead of uniting against the big bully.

Read also Gotcha, 25 Sept. 2020, "End of China Appeasement? Watch Duterte Actions, Experts Say":

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book "Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government" is available on Amazon:

Paperback: or at National Bookstores.

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