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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

‘Mr. Duterte, magpaka-Duterte ka naman’

That was a comment I heard over breakfast last week, articulating the collective exasperation of many of our countrymen who were so disappointed, first at the long silence of the President, and later at his unbelievable statements contradicting and even belittling the account of his own people who were abandoned floating at sea after their ship was rammed by a Chinese vessel.

In his three years in office, the President has hurled profanities at leaders of the United States and Europe, top officials of the United Nations and bishops of the Catholic Church when he was offended by their verbal assaults. Without any provocation, he has badmouthed the Pope and he has committed the ultimate blasphemy by cursing God. He has threatened to declare war against Canada over garbage.

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But when 22 poor Filipino fishermen became virtual victims of physical assault — with their boat sunk and the crew left adrift in the open sea for hours — President Duterte was suddenly transformed from a swear words-spewing leader to a curtsying head of state mouthing China’s bended version of the incident.

The refusal of the President to even make a whimper of protest is extremely infuriating because, at the very least, it is undisputed that the Chinese vessel had committed a twofold violation: First, it was fishing inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, hence, it was violating our country’s sovereign right to exploit marine resources in the area; and second, by leaving our fishermen clinging to debris in the water, the Chinese were in violation of their duty to render assistance to persons in distress at sea under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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Apart from those violations, the actuations of China in the West Philippine Sea have not been that of an owner, but of a brigand. On a massive scale, it has destroyed coral reefs that are indispensable in making the sea teem with marine life, thereby irreparably damaging fishing as a sustainable livelihood for its own people, and for the people of the other countries that share the sea as a common border. Its fishermen kill endangered sea turtles. Its Navy allows Chinese trawlers to irresponsibly harvest giant clams. If you’re the owner of a property that produces an abundance of seafood annually, you would want to preserve the ability of your property to continually spawn a bountiful harvest.

Even the excuse given by the President’s lieutenants — that the Chinese vessel involved in the collision is not a Chinese military vessel but a private fishing trawler and, therefore, no state condemnation is needed — is a worthless excuse. If it’s not a Chinese military boat, then why is the President still petrified to issue a condemnation, when there’s no protocol that disallows him from doing so?

Mr. Duterte missed the single chance where his critics would have absolutely agreed with him on his use of foul-mouthed language. The false warning made by the President and his lieutenants that beyond words and actions of appeasement, we risk going to a military war, is pure hogwash.

Mr. Duterte has never relented in fomenting a word war against countries that are far superior to us militarily, and he has bamboozled them into silence with his prickly language. Our President is the most powerful figure in the world in the arena of word wars, and his refusal to harness his advantage in this fitting instance justifiably leaves people perplexed and furious.

By issuing a scathing statement of condemnation, the President would have, at the very least, verbalized the collective anger of his people at a time when they needed their leader to do a blistering articulation.

Why is China being spared? With his inexplicable silence, the President deserves all the condemnation and the speculations of shadiness thrown his way. What secrets does China hold against our President that he treats it with the kind of reverence he doesn’t even accord to God?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

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The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Idea, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, PH-China relations, Recto Bank incident, Reed Bank incident, Rodrigo Duterte
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