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Opinion

How to detect China’s Manchurian Candidate

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

As it does elsewhere, the Chinese Communist Party will meddle in Philippine Election 2022. Manchurian Candidates are prepared to do its bidding should they win. Voters must detect who these are.

The CCP aims to control our president and Congress. By consequence, also the Supreme Court and the bureaucracy that they fill up. As CCP’s general secretary, President Xi Jinping is tightening domestic grip and expanding overseas supremacy. Already the People’s Liberation Army has grabbed nine reefs, shoals and islets in our West Philippine Sea. CCP gunboats and maritime militia deter Filipino fishing and oil and gas exploration. With a puppet Philippine government, the CCP can gain footholds to invade Taiwan and trespass our Pacific side. Co-opting politicians and parties worldwide is China’s strategy as the new imperialist.

Manchurian Candidates are secret collaborators with foreign powers. The term derives from the 1959 novel of Richard Condon.

Manchurian Candidates can be national or local. Such politicos are where the CCP has interests, said retired Philippine Navy vice commander, Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong.

How to discern them? Avoiding identities, Ong, now a professor of praxis at the Ateneo de Manila University, prescribes five ways:

• Ask them to state their position on China’s aggression in the WPS. They cannot, should not hide it,” Ong told Sapol-dwIZ last Saturday.

Candidates can be made to sign their stand. That can help avert a Duterte-like flip-flop. In the 2016 presidential debates, Duterte had hyperbolized to “jetski to the Spratlys, plant the Filipino flag and declare ‘this is ours’,” only to disavow it years later as a joke and his believers as “stupid.”

• Check out the candidates’ past political affiliations and businesses, particularly if tied to China, whether as principal or middleman. “This is like an official receipt,” said Ong.

Two ex-generals in the Advocates for National Interest suspect that Duterte’s longtime Chinese businessman-friend and former economic adviser Michael Yang is a China “state agent.” Yang is linked in the Pharmally scandal, in which the administration procured P12-billion pandemic supplies from a newborn shop with only P625,000 capital.

• Find out who their advisers, financiers and top campaigners are. Candidates may not be directly influenced by Chinese agents but by Filipino conduits around them, Ong said.

Revelations of political influencing by Chinese contributors to Australian and New Zealand parties sparked investigations. American and European officials have been forced to resign due to aides’ links to CCP officers.

• The CCP supports Manchurian Candidates with disinformation. Communist China is a master of propaganda, Ong said. Fake news proliferates online for its chosen ones and against rivals.

Facebook has shut down hundreds of accounts in Fujian, China for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The troll farms dwelt on Philippine political events. Frequently bashed were Vice President Leni Robredo and critics of China’s sea aggression, retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario.

• CCP influencing at local levels can be via sister-province or -city arrangements. Such ties with other countries normally are for economic, cultural and tourist exchange. But in China’s case, counterparts are communist cadres, Ong said.

Foremost targets are locales facing the West Philippine Sea and Benham Rise with military value to the CCP, Ong added. In 2019, a Chinese firm tried to lease Fuga Island off the tip of Northern Luzon from the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. The defense department objected. Had the deal not been exposed, the PLA could have gained control of the narrow sea lane between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea and threatened Philippine security. Separate attempts were made on two islands at the mouth of Subic Bay, Zambales, where the Philippine Navy is to set up a shipyard.

In 2015, a China state firm wangled a 99-year lease on a port in Darwin, Australia adjacent to a United States naval base. In the Maldives, another Chinese company leased a reef for concreting into an Indian Ocean island seaport.

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“Bongbong Marcos appears one of few candidates to agree with Duterte’s policy of engagement with Beijing,” Fitch Country Risk assessed weeks ago. Duterte’s stance is appeasement. The son of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos said it is “the right way to go.”

Marcos parrots the administration’s softness towards CCP’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, newspapers note. “There are those who say that we should buy patrol boats and jets just in case we get to fight. Why would we think we will fight? That war will be over in less than a week. We’re defeated already,” Marcos told reporters at a recent online briefing.

Duterte raises the war bogey whenever criticized about defeatism. Patriots beg him to employ diplomacy to assert Manila’s July 2016 arbitral victory against China’s reef grabbing. Suggestions range from mustering ASEAN and Western support, to tabling the issue before the UN General Assembly. Duterte instead withdrew Philippine patrols near the stolen reefs.

Marcos has special ties with the CCP. In a 2018 Facebook post, he hails its delegation that he and his mother hosted for lunch. He proclaims his Ilocos Norte home province as China’s gateway to the Philippines. China’s posts in turn claim he is best for its overseas nationals.

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