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Editorial

Bullies and cowards

/ 05:07 AM June 23, 2019

A bully is defined as “a blustering, browbeating person, especially one who is habitually cruel, insulting or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.” And bullying is the act of “causing someone to do something by means of force or coercion.”

This definition, though, has a flip side. For when confronted by someone who is stronger, bigger or more powerful, the bully turns into a patsy, suddenly reduced to a craven, sniveling coward. The transformed bully is then bullied in turn, rushing to do the new overlord’s bidding.

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This is the scenario now playing out in the wake of the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel, which caused the FB Gem-Vir 1 to sink. The Chinese vessel then turned on its lights and, after seeing the Filipino fishers thrashing in the sea, turned off its lights and fled the scene.

Now disputed, the story outline is being “investigated” by Filipino authorities, though it is based on the first, early accounts of the Filipino fishers and of their Vietnamese rescuers.

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One would think, as former Filipino diplomat (to the Asean) Wilfrido Villacorta told a TV interviewer, that “we should first believe our fellow Filipinos before (we believe) foreigners.”

But this simple formula is being turned on its head by the nation’s current leaders and their mercenary partisans. The administration’s army of trolls, both named and unnamed, have ganged up on the 22 victims of what can only be described as Chinese aggression in our own waters.

Unanimously, it seems, they assert that the fishermen are at fault, that they are too ignorant to be credible, that their eyewitness accounts are illogical and fantastic, that those who were present when the ramming took place and spent miserable hours in the dark sea are lying and those who heard the story only from far away know better.

Of course, these attack dogs are only taking their cue from those in government. After keeping an uncharacteristic silence in the days following the near-tragedy, President Duterte dismissed the boat-ramming as a mere “maritime accident,” downgrading the fishermen’s contention that the ramming had been intentional.

Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who at the start expressed outrage over the boat sinking, has seemingly softened his stand, now “entertaining doubts that the Chinese ship intended to bump the Filipino boat.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, dispatched to the fishers’ hometown, managed to fish out a witness to the contrary, boat cook Richard Blaza (who was the only one awake at the time, he claimed) who said he was “unsure” whether it had been a ramming or an accidental but severe bumping.

Later, after failing to bring fishing boat captain Junel Insigne to a purported meeting with the President, Piñol led a police force in full battle gear to Insigne’s home for a “dialogue.”

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It was a painful sight, indeed: the boat captain clad in a pitiful undershirt apologizing to the President for disputing Mr. Duterte’s version of events, capped by a photo-op with everyone thrusting out the trademark Duterte fist at the Filipino public.

This, even as Chinese authorities themselves admitted to the “accident” and excused their vessel’s failure to come to the fishers’ aid by citing the alleged but proven to the contrary presence of other Filipino boats which they said were about to “besiege” them.

One thought: If the other boats were indeed nearby, why was the rescue of the beleaguered fishers carried out by a Vietnamese vessel?

The latest development in this saga of infamy and treason by Filipino officials is that China has “agreed” to a joint inquiry into what the President insists was a mere “accident” at sea. One can only make an educated, cynical guess at the conclusion of the investigation, since, after all, Filipino officials and their rabid minions have already twisted the story around.

This is what bullying gets you: a scenario of stupidity, and the downgrading, nay, crushing of a nation’s dignity. Given the way the story is being reversed, and the fishers’ abysmal treatment by the very same people who should be protecting and defending them, one shouldn’t be surprised if, after the facts of the boat-ramming have faded from memory, the fishermen will be told that it was all their fault.

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