Duterte’s defeatism on China = lack of patriotism
When he campaigned for president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte liked to make a ritual out of kissing the Philippine flag. Two years after his election, he cannot be bothered to pay even lip service to the defense of the country that the flag represents.
And the country needs defending, now that an aggressive China has landed bombers in the Paracels and completed the militarization of the reefs it occupies in the Spratlys, encroaching on the West Philippine Sea.
“At this time, I am really playing geopolitics,” an expansive President Duterte said in another free-association speech on Sunday. In between long asides on the sorry state of our military’s rifles, which he compared to “battle-weary” soldiers, and the hypocrisy of Americans, who he said “adopted the garbage of the left and the yellow,” he explained his policy toward Beijing in terms of a diplomatic friendzone. “So kaibigan lang tayo (we are just friends). Pero (But) not that close, making it public because I cannot allow one country to — since we do not have the manufacturing enterprise, talent, but we don’t allow one country to arm us, because if you allow it, automatically, in geopolitics, you become a colony.”
The President talks a good if rambling game. He has come to accept that the armed services have a strong bond with the American security sector that even he cannot break. “Most of our military men and police, most of them who graduate, go to America to take special courses there. Sa police, investigation, they go to Quantico. Of course, I realize that.” He (rightly) calls out the Americans for their sense of exceptionalism. “They think that they are a separate kind from the rest of the world.” And he speaks proudly of traveling to China and Russia to buy arms—again because, he explains, using his theory of geopolitics, “if you agree to that (having only one source of arms), your country becomes a colony of that powerful country.” (In truth, several countries, not including China and Russia, already supply arms to the AFP and the police.)
But then he says something only the defeatist, defeated leader of a colony would say: “Kaya itong China Sea, wala na rin akong magawa (That’s why in this issue of the China Sea, there is also nothing I can do). Do not believe in that s*it that it was during my time that this arbitral ruling was handed down. Of course, it was not. The fate of that started two months before, three months before akong pumasok (I entered office). Because it was already announced there was the arbitration decision.”
This is a lie; worse, this is a lie easy to prove (not even the almighty Chinese were prepared for how sweeping the Philippine legal victory was); worst of all, this is a lie that aligns with Chinese, not Philippine, interests. It puts the blame where China wants it, on the lap of the Philippine president who brought it to court and on the American officials who took Chinese diplomats at their word.
But there is an even more terrible lie: “I am faced with the possibility of a barbaric war. Hindi ko naman kaya ito, ipadala ko yung mga sundalo ko (I cannot do it, to send my soldiers). I will not embark on something, on a war that or battle that I cannot win, hindi ako g*go (I am not an idiot).”
Beijing would like Manila to believe that only one alternative to the Chinese position exists, and that is war. Tragically, the President has completely embraced this wrongheaded, and indeed unpatriotic, view.
On Sunday, we got another glimpse — despite the President’s attempt at geopolitical explanation — of his attitude of surrender. “Anuhin ko man ito, China (What will I do with China)? Justice Carpio keeps on [pushing?] be assertive.”
That’s the problem right there. The President thinks that being assertive can only be expressed in physical, military terms. But he has other options. Forceful diplomacy; close collaboration with allies such as Australia, Japan, and the United States; renewed partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, and other allies in Asean; the strategic use, as former national security adviser Roilo Golez suggests, of what is called “lawfare”; not least, the use of presidential rhetoric directed against Beijing. Ah, but nothing.
What was it Sun Tzu taught? “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand
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