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Editorial

Misguided nationalism


The recommended filing of homicide charges against the Coast Guard personnel involved in the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in May may be unpopular with some Filipinos who insist that we must defend our defenders at all cost—an example of misguided nationalism that ignores our national interest in using international law to oppose Beijing’s territorial aggrandizement over our seas.

Before we start the flag-waving, we must remember that when it comes to the use of force against unarmed civilians, we ourselves have many unresolved complaints against our uniformed troops, and that these human rights apply equally to all persons, Filipino or alien, within our territory, including the maritime territory that we rightly claim as ours. It pulls the rug out from under our feet when we start choosing who are entitled to be protected from the use of excessive force and, even worse, when we claim territory for the riches that we covet but disavow human rights obligations that come with the territory. Seen in that light, the recommended filing of charges by Filipino investigators within the Philippine justice system is itself an assertion of our territorial jurisdiction.

The wheels of justice have begun to turn albeit ever so slowly. Our National Bureau of Investigation has downgraded the charges from murder to homicide. It is now the turn of the prosecutors at the Department of Justice to weigh the evidence, including the official video recording of the incident that reportedly has been doctored by the Coast Guard (in itself a separate offense contained in the NBI charges).

That there existed such a video recording was a pleasant surprise to Filipinos who had hitherto come across such things only in foreign crime shows on TV and who now see their own law enforcers equipped with modern monitoring technology. That is why, in addition to criminal proceedings to punish the guilty, the incident calls for a review of our protocol, the rules of engagement governing these incidents from the proverbial “shot across the bow” to the hot pursuit seen in the televised excerpts of the video recording.

This is not our first encounter with Taiwan over its fishermen who encroach on waters reserved by international law to our own fisherfolk—and it won’t be the last. But we must remember that more than 20 years ago, President Corazon Aquino’s administration actually negotiated a code of conduct with Taipei to avoid precisely these unfortunate encounters, but it was scuttled due to our One-China policy sealed in the 1975 joint communiqúe between Ferdinand Marcos and Chou En Lai.

In that document, Manila agreed that Beijing was “the sole legal government of China, [that] there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory.” Significantly, lest Beijing forget, the two states also “agree[d] to respect each other’s territorial integrity,” reiterating bilaterally an obligation fundamentally contained in the UN Charter.

That is why it sounds hollow for Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “strongly condemn the Philippines’ ‘barbaric’ shooting of the Taiwanese fishing boat” and to demand that Manila “investigate the case immediately and handle the issue properly.” But the most sensible thing is for next-door neighbors like Taiwan and the Philippines to talk and agree. Is that what Beijing suggests?

All this posturing should remind us that, when it comes to our claim over the West Philippine Sea, our chief opponent is Beijing, not Taipei. The “principal contradiction,” a term that should be familiar to Beijing old-timers from the bad old days of left-wing dogmatism, is with Beijing’s territorial and military ambitions in Asia.

Moreover, a cornerstone of Philippine national interest also lies in the protection of the overseas Filipino worker. While the Taiwanese government has the duty to protect our OFWs in Taiwan from harassment and assault, it falls on the Philippine government to take steps to ensure the continued hiring of OFWs there. We cannot belittle the interests of our OFWs as if they were playthings in global battles.

The recent legal development in Manila has reopened the hiring prospects for Filipino workers, and augurs well for current and aspiring OFWs. It has also defused potential enmity with a neighbor with whom we share a common distrust of Beijing. The Philippines’ national interest lies in using international law to resist Beijing’s territorial encroachments and military provocations. To lose sight of that is un-nationalistic.


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Tags: editorial , homicide , International law , justice , nationalism , Philippine Coast Guard , Philippines , Taiwan

  • kapirasongkurot

    and never lose sight that as we stand by nationalism vs China, we are also selling yet again our souls to US domination (directly or indirectly), in aid of well mutual defense, as if sovereignty only applies to territorial dispute and exempts internal, political and economic intrusions. So much with double standards?

    • Crazy_horse101010

      you have to have a soul before you can sell it and the us isnt satan who wants it

  • TGM_ERICK

    The decision is exactly the inverse of Zimmerman case where the use of force is not punished. Our court’s decision is justifiable. Our sea patrol men could have done something else to stop the encroaching Taiwanese other than murdering him. The force applied was unnecessary. A ton of fish could not equal the life of a human being.

    I suggest that our coastguards patrol the premises of our Batasan where use of force is necessary. Poaching in our barrel warrants a bullet fired to the hand. And please assign no sharp shooters. A reckess hit will do the job. Joke joke joke. Hehehe

  • sacrebleau

    I do not know what kind of training our law enforcers get, do the procedures that they follow come from watching hollywood movies? The fatal shooting is doubly alarming because it created an international incident. I think it shows the poor training of the PCG with regards to using lethal force and it is also a reflection on a society that values life by class – meaning poor fishermen are dispensable targets while those aboard yachts are saluted and escorted.

  • Don Dee

    Next time PCG, aim below the waterline. Sink their ship then rescue the poachers. Or maybe we should start equipping our PCG boats with grappling hooks? I saw the video. The poachers were trying to escape. But still, no evidence that the lives of the PCG were endangered — so I grudgingly agree with the NBI findings. SO new rule of engagement, start sinking the poachers boats!

  • susanahjoy

    As per video shown on tv, takatigil pareho yung 2 boats. Suddenly, humarurot papalayo yung taiwanese boat to escape capture. Di ko lang alam if at this juncture the coast guard started shooting directly at the boat. Unfortunately, yata nasa below deck yung tinamaang fisherman. So, what is the rule of engagement? Homicide ba yun? Di ba kapani-paniwala ang mga accounts ng ating coast guards?

    Nag-sorry tayo for the incident. How come hindi naman nag-so-sorry ang mga taiwanese when they repeatedly fish in our waters?

    Anu yun application ba ito ng kasabihang “pag pinukol ka ng bato, pukulin mo ng isda”…..

    • Mamang Pulis

      …as a catholic, we were taught to ‘give the other cheek’…tama?

      …as a nation, not only did we offer the other ‘cheek’, we even spread our ‘cheeks a$$’ so every nation up north and down south west can freely ingress/egress our borders….

      sorry for the lack of term when I get so furious & frustrated….

  • tarikan

    My take on this issue. Kung sa Communist China yung fishing boat palagay ko magtatatlong isip muna yung mga PH Coast Guards bago magpaputok let alone patamaan talaga ang boat. Kung Communist Chinese vessel yun baka hanggang diplomatic protest laang ang Pinas or maybe the DND would be saying: we are verifying what nationality is the vessel or the DFA would be saying: we are waiting for the DND’s report.

  • notmeitsthedog

    Taiwan and China both claims the whole South China Sea. If not for China, Taiwan would be the one showing aggression towards us. They have threatened us with missile ships in regards to the SCS dispute. Taiwan’s conduct shows how they look down on us and this incident, with their show of force at our doorstep, the threats on innocent OFWs, their lack of remorse after our OFW got harmed due to their government’s rhetoric, shows that Taiwan is not a good neighbor. IN FACT, CHINA HAS SHOWN MORE RESTRAINT TOWARDS THE PHILIPPINES THAN TAIWAN.

    While we have OFWs to think about, the employment opportunity taiwan provides should not compel us to compromise our territorial sovereignty. Those job opportunity will come and go; while our territorial right to exclusive use is vital to us and should be kept intact for our future generations.

    The fact is that our PCG couldn’t have known for sure whether the Taiwanese vessel were armed, carrying contraband or not, because the vessel refused to be boarded. The point that our PCG SHOT THE TAIWANESE VESSEL MORE THAN 50x AND MISSED THE OCCUPANTS EXCEPT FOR THE ONE HIDING INSIDE THE MOTOR ROOM IS NOT A DEMERIT TO THEM BUT INSTEAD SHOWS OUR COAST GUARD TOOK CAREFUL REGARDS NOT TO HARM ANYONE INTENTIONALLY EVEN THOUGH THAT FELL WITHIN THE NECESSARY RISK IN FULFILLING THEIR DUTY.

    PDI, stop showing your battered wife syndrome prioritize what is really important for our Nation, the strict implementation of our laws.

  • diwaenergy

    Why do you have to mention that we need to protect OFWs when it should not matter in this case? Does this mean we have to compromise everytime we have to deal with countries where we have OFWs which is almost every country in the world. Furthermore, it sets a doubt in the investigation because you are mentioning other agendas rather finding the simple truth.

    I am not saying tat the article is wrong but it just fails adress the otherside of the situation. We do not want our coastguard to disregard international laws and agreements but we do want them to know the country is behind them. Moral matters when your life is at stake evrytime you go to work. We do not want them second guesing protecting our territory.

  • ellatovara

    Bakit naman ganoon, kalimutan na ba natin ang lahat ng nilagdaang papeles with outher nations like Taiwan para lang merong mapuntahan ng daan daang mga Pilipino na naghahanap ng trabaho?
    I mean we are doing it with Taiwan, we are compromising our sovereignty for the sake of OFWs, then how will we expect China to believe us and respect our laws. Ay kawawang Pilipino before we know it wala na tayong bansa, pinamigay na sa mga bansa na nageemploy ng Pilipino as OFWS.

  • lucidlynx

    Shooting at unarmed, defenseless people, foreigners or not, is not protecting our sovereignty. I totally agree with this editorial.

    • Noel Noel Munro

      what do you suggest to stop the poachers?



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