It’s easy for one to get angry, but when the anger is followed by violent action, one may just end up regretting what happened.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has good reason to be angry about the presence of Chinese ships in the disputed shoals of the West Philippine Sea, but he has been tempering his displeasure with sobriety amidst the practical realities of the times.
What are those realities?
The Philippines does not have the military might to win a war against China. Although the country has a mutual defense pact with the United States and American military assistance can be forthcoming in the event of hostilities, nobody can really predict the outcome of a shooting war in these times of sophisticated warfare.
Going to war requires money, and plenty of it. Right now, the Philippines does not have money to go to war. Whatever money the government can spare outside of its basic operational expenses is better spent on addressing the problems brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between going to war with China (which will create more problems in the meantime) and solving the problems in the country created by the pandemic (which means saving Filipino lives), President Duterte appears to have made the more practical choice. That should explain why President Duterte’s overtures to China have not been as hostile as his critics want those overtures to be.
Critics of the President have mistaken his temperate stance on the West Philippine Sea issue as weakness on his part and that of the nation.
In particular, retired Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario insists that the President should assert the rights of the Philippines to the disputed area as upheld by the United Nations international arbitration panel.
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, who is Del Rosario’s misguided close partner in their hate campaign against President Duterte, shares the equally misguided Del Rosario’s views.
Carpio repeatedly mentions to the media that when President Duterte was campaigning for the presidency in 2016, one of his campaign promises was that if he is elected President, he will jet-ski to the West Philippine Sea and plant the Philippine flag on one of the disputed shoals there.
President Duterte, Carpio said, reneged on that promise. Carpio equates the President’s “unfulfilled promise” to that of swindling the electorate.
Del Rosario and Carpio think they’ve scored against President Duterte, but they are mistaken. Their public statements show that they only want to create trouble for the President and embarrass him in the process.
It is easy for Del Rosario to demand that President Duterte should enforce the arbitration ruling against China. Just how the President is to do that without going to war and compromising the safety of the Filipino people, Del Rosario does not explain. Perhaps, Del Rosario forgot to do so on account of his advanced age. Didn’t he resign his post as DFA Secretary in 2019 for health reasons?
As to Carpio’s outburst on President Duterte’s campaign promise about jet-skiing to the disputed maritime area, suffice it to say that Carpio’s statement, complemented by Del Rosario’s hollow comments, is actually a trap cleverly designed to either get rid of President Duterte, or to embarrass the latter.
If President Duterte calls Carpio’s dare and the President does jet-ski to the disputed area to plant the Philippine flag on one of the shoals there, the Chinese navy may actually shoot at the President and kill him in the process. The President’s critics will be overjoyed to learn that what they could not do to the President, the Chinese navy did it for them.
Even if President Duterte is unhurt in his jet-skiing trip to the disputed area, such a trip is sure to portray the President as a reckless, trouble-seeking, publicity-hungry leader. The political opposition, desperate as it is to stay relevant to the voting public, will surely use that as an issue against the administration.
Should President Duterte ignore Carpio’s dare, Carpio will exploit the situation anew by accusing the President of reneging on his campaign promise.
The Carpio-Del Rosario trap is really clever and devious. No wonder these two guys have many well-paying corporate and individual clients.
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