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Opinion

Expect China to meddle in Election 2022 — experts

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Beijing will meddle in the 2022 presidential-congressional-local election. Illegalities can include campaign contributions and hacking. China aims to insert in Malacañang and Congress promoters of its interests in the West Philippine Sea and Taiwan.

One or more “Manchurian candidates” are possible, observers say. Enforcement of election laws is weak and President Rody Duterte’s administration acquiesces to Beijing, they add. Culled from Richard Condon’s 1959 novel, a Manchurian candidate is a disloyal politician who harms his country or party.

Funding is China’s main form of interference, geopolitics expert Renato de Castro, PhD, told Sapol-dwIZ Saturday. It has happened before. The professor on China affairs and Philippines-US security relations cited the national broadband network scandal involving state-owned China telecom ZTE Corp. in election year 2007.

Exposed in Gotcha, Malacañang’s $329-million NBN-ZTE contract contained a $200-million kickback. Subsequent congressional inquiries linked the Comelec chairman. Part of the kickback was $72 million for the administration’s senatorial ticket. Later inquiries by the US Congress and Australian parliament revealed similar ZTE sleaze to politicians in Mexico, Central Asia and Africa. Two high ZTE execs were sons of Chinese Communist Party hierarchs.

Ranking Beijing officials bragged to have shaped the outcome of the 2016 elections that put Duterte in office, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said Monday. Citing a “most reliable international entity,” he said “our Beijing post can easily validate that.” Del Rosario has been urging Duterte to rally international support to compel China to abide by the 2016 Hague ruling against its island-grabbing in the West Philippine Sea. Duterte and Malacañang lawyers have been denigrating that Philippine arbitral victory.

“Subsequent actions of the President lend more credence to this information,” del Rosario added. He exemplified the May 2018 statement of Duterte that Chinese President Xi Jinping has sworn to protect him from ouster. As well, Duterte “professing his undying love for President Xi” before attending the 2018 Boao Forum.

“It is disturbing to see our President – who should be looking after his own people – relying on a foreign leader for his security of tenure as president,” del Rosario noted. “Such foreign leader represents an aggressor that openly and illegally occupies land and waters belonging to the Filipino people.”

The Philippines is also strategic to Xi’s plan to retake Taiwan as a renegade Chinese province, de Castro said. Only a narrow channel separates the island-nation from northern Luzon. Beijing would want Filipino officials to allow an invasion of Taiwan, and prevent any US use of Philippine bases to stop it.

Manila and Washington have a Mutual Defense Treaty, an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and a Visiting Forces Agreement. Those pacts facilitated US disaster aid to the Philippines after Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and military support against the terrorist siege of Marawi in 2017. The US can seek use of Philippine bases to repel an invasion of Taiwan, similar to its recent accords with Seoul and Tokyo, de Castro said.

China’s political influencing is also done elsewhere, de Castro added. In 2019-2020 was bared the CCP’s contributions to New Zealand’s main Labor and National parties. For partners in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance – Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States – that explains New Zealand’s refusal of surveillance affecting China.

In 2017, an Australian member of parliament resigned after being linked along with partymates to bribes from the CCP. Conduits of the dirty money were Chinese firms. Chinese law obligates citizens and companies to participate in state espionage, including overseas, and to keep such operations secret.

US intelligence reported Chinese influencing in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. Both involved subtle propaganda, including Philippine troll armies, unlike blatant Russian interference in the 2016 US polls.

The Philippine election in May next year can end up as a competition against Chinese interference, retired Navy Rear Adm. Rommel Jude Ong warned in 2020. “If we want to counter China’s sharp power, then we should prepare for the national elections in 2022,” said the former Navy second-in-command and intelligence head. “If we deny our share of responsibility as citizens in preserving our way of life, then we might face an electoral contest not among political parties but against China’s preferred candidates.”

Former foreign undersecretary Laura del Rosario has forecast the same. “There will be more than two Manchurian candidates, so whoever they field, we have to unite under one candidate.” She prescribed national strength, the only thing China respects as it despises weakness.

Vice President Leni Robredo, touted as an opposition “presidentiable,” has denounced constant online troll attacks. Facebook has been taking down by the dozens troll farms delving on Philippine politics but based in Xiamen, Guangzhou and Shanghai. “What is China doing with our domestic affairs?” Robredo remarked recently. “Is this to protect its own interest? Frightening, as it involves our sovereignty.”

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity”. Simply subscribe to my newsletter at: https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

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