Aquino and Coloma: Ignorant or loony, or both?

I can’t believe how ignorant or loony, or both, the recent statements President Aquino and his spokesman Herminio Coloma have been.

Ignorant:

Aquino likened China’s claims over the Spratly Islands to Hitler’s demand in 1938 for Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region to be turned over to Nazi Germany.

Aquino’s analogy is something only an ignoramus would make.

When Hitler made the demand, Sudetenland was where 22 percent of Czechoslovakia’s population, or 3.2 million people, who considered themselves ethnically Germans, lived. The other major ethnicities were the Czechs (51 percent) and Slovaks (16 percent).

Many in Sudetenland, as well as people in Germany itself, felt that the region’s incorporation into Czechoslovakia had been unjust. Sudetenland had been a part of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire until the Western powers that defeated it together with Germany in World War I cut it up.

Sudetenland was made part of a newly created Czechoslovakia while other parts of the empire were made into the sovereign states of Austria and Hungary or made part of several countries including Ukraine, Poland and even Italy. (After Hitler’s defeat in World War II, the victorious allies ordered Sudetenland Germans to leave Czechoslovakia. Practically all 3.1 million Germans in Sudetenland moved to Western Germany.)

How many people live in the disputed Spratly Islands area which Aquino likens to Sudetenland?

Zero. Well there are some people: a sprinkling of troops most of the claimant-nations have deployed to the fortifications built on islands, islets, atolls, and in our case, to a grounded, rusting ship. Yes, Pag-Asa island is officially a municipality, but the two dozen people there are our soldiers or people paid to live there for three months. Without regular provisions of food and water, the island is a Robin Crusoe kind of place.

Is the Spratly island group ever part of an empire in the way that Sudetenland was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Well, the Chinese claim so.

In our case? Marcos called it the Kalayaan Group of Islands, declaring it part of the Republic in 1974, when fishing magnate and adventurer Tomas Cloma—after he threw him into a Camp Crame jail—turned it over to him. Cloma had called it the “Free Territory of Freedomland” which he ruled, after discovering it in 1956. (See my column “The Spratlys: Marcos’ legacy or Curse,” June 22, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer).

Ignorant:

Replying to questions whether Aquino is violating everyday Civil Service regulations prohibiting smoking in public places, spokesman Coloma said: “Smoking is allowed in open spaces, and there are many open spaces in Malacañang.”

Coloma obviously didn’t read Civil Service Memorandum Circular No. 17, series of 2009, which ordered a “100% SMOKE-FREE POLICY and a SMOKING PROHIBITION in all areas of government premises, buildings and grounds…” (caps in the original)” (See my column, “Is Aquino breaking antismoking rules daily?” Dec. 5, 2012, Philippine Daily Inquirer.)

The circular does allow smoking in “open spaces” But not just any “open space” in Malacañang. The circular requires these “smoking areas” to be officially designated, located in “an open space with no roofs or walls, and located more than 10 meters away from entrances.”

The CSC even stipulated that a government building could have only one designated smoking area. There must be a “smoking area” sign, which shall contain “information regarding the hazardous effects.” I dare Coloma to show reporters where this single open space is, the only place in Malacañang where Aquino can smoke in without violating civil service regulations.

Loony:
Both Aquino and Coloma said that the President cannot apologize for the Luneta hostage crisis in which eight Hong Kong Chinese citizens were killed since China had not apologized for the deaths of a Filipina doctor as well of a father and his daughter in Tiananmen Square. The doctor was killed in 2013 by a wayward vehicle that crashed into a crowd of tourists, while the father and daughter were stabbed to death by a psychotic Chinese.

Are Aquino and Coloma too weak in their minds or plain crazy to understand that the Hong Kong government is asking for an apology not because of their citizens’ deaths per se but because government bungled its handling of the hostage crisis that lasted 10 hours and which led to the massacre?

That government botched the crisis was even affirmed by the justice department’s investigation, which recommended that charges filed against 15 civilian and police officials, including Aquino’s confidante Rico Puno, interior and local government undersecretary for police affairs. Is Hong Kong’s insistence for an apology unreasonable when not one of these 15 officials has been charged?

Quickly defending his boss’ comparing Chinese leaders to Hitler, spokesman Coloma said: “As a storyteller and as a conversationalist, the President often gives details of a particular situation so it could’ve happened that he was simply citing the fact that there was such incident.” This is just about the craziest explanation given over Aquino’s “Hitler” insult.

Aquino says the Chinese leaders are like Hitler, the most ruthless leader who walked the earth, who ordered the genocide of an estimated 8 million to 15 million Jews, Soviet POWs, Germans with disabilities, “Rhineland bastards,” homosexuals and other human beings. And Coloma claims the President made the remarks since he is a good “storyteller and a conversationalist”?

Doesn’t Aquino realize that Hitler has been a devil in the Chinese collective mind, since Nazi Germany was an ally of the Japanese, responsible for the so-called 1937 “Rape of Nanking,” in which 300,000 unarmed men, women, and children were massacred by the invading Japanese troops?

Hasn’t Aquino been informed that even before his “Hitler” statements, “Filipino” has become a hated word in Chinese social networks like Weibo (users: 500 million), in the same way that Filipino netizens are virulent over a perceived, “viral” villain?

The scary thing about Aquino’s statements against China, a Chinese journalist remarked, is that with the power of social media, hostility against the Philippines among the Chinese has been fueled to such ferocity that it may take a decade to correct, especially since the modern Chinese leadership, in contrast to the time of Deng Xiao Ping, has become more and more susceptible to public sentiment.

Aquino and Coloma’s silly statements are hilarious if not for the cost we will be paying for their stupidity.

“We will all suffer because of one man,” a tycoon remarked, giving as one example the fact that Chinese high rollers in Manila’s casinos have dwindled since Aquino’s hostile statements against China. “The few Chinese you see in casinos, are those who enter Manila from other countries,” he said.

“It will get worse,” he added. “The Chinese are slowing down one way or another their exports to us, and these aren’t only consumer items, but heavy equipment and factory machinery.”

“We just to have to be pragmatic,” another magnate said.

“China’s trade with the world is $4 trillion, so our total trade with China of $14 billion last year is less than half a percent of its total trade. But it is 14 percent of our total trade.”

“The Chinese won’t even notice if their country stops trade with us. For us though, it would be a catastrophe. The US, Japan, and Europe would try of course to fill the gap, and they’d want to. But only after a period of economic collapse here.”

Aquino’s adminisration has become one big diplomatic disaster for our country.