Disturbing foreign relations

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - July 21, 2019 - 12:00am

There have been two recent transnational events of ponderous significance to our country. The first was the ramming of the Gem-ver 1 by a Chinese boat. This incident happened while the vessel fished inside a portion of the West Philippine Sea that an International Arbitral Tribunal ruled is within our Exclusive Economic Zone. The second was a resolution of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights calling for an investigation into alleged human rights violations committed in our country. Both these events affect aspects of our sovereignty. The reactions of our national leaders to these situations are, in my perception, grotesquely disturbing as they seem to be horrendously confusing.

I wrote in this column our national rage arising from the ramming incident. Personally, I was outraged by the obviously criminal mind of the Chinese when they hit the Filipino vessel. The massive outpouring of other ordinary mortals like me indicated I wasn’t alone in my anger. It looked like a catastrophe of national proportion hit us and we rose in collective indignation. Unfortunately, President Rodrigo Duterte had a different persuasion, not feeling offended by the Chinese violation of our territorial sovereignty. In fact, he described the event as a minor “maritime incident”. The Philippines and China are friends, he said. So, perhaps owing to his still immense popularity, Duterte succeeded to tone down the otherwise serious assault committed the foreigners against Filipinos in an area where our sovereign rights are internationally recognized.

We, of course, heard that Duterte allowed the Chinese to fish in the area where Gem-ver 1 sank. Still, there is this claim of some learned individuals that the presidential announcement, apparently founded on some hidden executive agreement, is tantamount to a culpable violation of our constitution. But the intended impeachment hasn’t gained ground. That ends whatever brouhaha the first event generated.

Iceland, another sovereign state, reportedly sponsored a resolution calling for the investigation of alleged human rights here. Considering that the acts supposed to be investigated are linked to the war on drugs, this resolution irked our high officials. Top echelon Philippine leaders from the president down have condemned the move as interfering in our own affairs. As an independent state, we are free to manage our own affairs in the manner we deem best and, accordingly, Iceland has no business asking that what we do be investigated by a United Nations body. Threats of cutting off diplomatic relations are wantonly aired as if Iceland shall cease to exist if the reported few thousand Filipinos living there are repatriated. Alongside such veiled threats, our responsible officials continue to release bully statements like in that country people are only concerned with ice. Argumentum ad baculom and parenthetical argumentum ad hominem can never replace legalese discussions!

To me, there is a glaring disparity in the treatment of these two issues. What disturbs me is that the bottom line is theoretically almost identical --Philippine sovereignty. The physical intrusion of Chinese vessels into our EEZ is a real assault on our sovereign rights. But, it seems to be tolerated. Our government doesn’t feel aggrieved. On the other hand, the resolution sponsored by Iceland might offend our internal affairs but it doesn’t even approximate the degree of the criminal act of the Chinese. Yet, we respond as if there is already a finding of our human rights violations.


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