THE Yellows’ old reliable, the Social Weather Stations, is at it again, disseminating falsehoods disguised as public opinion, undertaking propaganda through its interview questions themselves.
Its recent poll on our territorial dispute with China was widely reported by media, with the TV network GMA-7’s article on it headlined: “81 percent reject govt’s ‘do nothing’ policy on West PHL Sea — SWS.”
I initially thought it was just another of that network’s usual anti-administration spin. But that was the angle of nearly all media outlets, which, it turned out, merely echoed the SWS’ own press release, which was headlined: “4 out of 5 Pinoys repudiate government’s policy of allowing Chinese intrusion in the West Philippine Sea.”
SWS’ Yellow hue is revealed as it has been the Yellows’ propaganda tack to claim that President Duterte’s policy is to allow Chinese intrusion, which it is not.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. hit the nail right on the head when he pointed out the absurdity — or stupidity — of SWS’ report: “100 percent of all Filipinos, not just 81 percent of them, should oppose inaction on the maritime dispute.”
Same stance as others
Duterte’s policy on the South China Sea territorial dispute has simply been what other claimants (mainly Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan) have adopted since the issue worsened in the 1980s. Duterte’s policy reversed President Aquino’s stance of antagonism towards China. Duterte and other claimants’ position can be summarized as follows:
Protest through diplomatic venues and through media China’s claims. Fortify what territories you control. Despite the territorial dispute, strengthen ties with China in order to take advantage of its colossal trade, private investments, and state loans — as Vietnam has been doing despite its battle with China in 1974 over the Paracel islands in which it lost 60 soldiers with three of its ships sunk or damaged.
But don’t act as the US’ propagandist shrieking to portray China as an imperialist in Asia. And most of all, don’t go to war with the superpower — or seem to move towards it, as President Aquino did in 2012 when he sent the Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar to Panatag Shoal to arrest Chinese fishermen. (He withdrew it the day after when told of his boo-boo.)
One major policy of other claimants is also to limit their dispute to a bilateral one, and not get the US nor any other third party involved, as Aquino did when he begged for US intervention in the Scarborough stand-off in 2012 and asked the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague to intervene.
SWS is lying when it claims that the Duterte government’s policy is inaction. Would SWS define as action the deployment of the Philippine Navy to forcibly remove Chinese fishing and civilian vessels out of Panatag, or dismantle its facilities on Mischief and other reefs?
The SWS even blatantly lied in its preface to its poll queries to anger its respondents against China.
Lie No. 1. The SWS in its introduction to its questions read to respondents, claimed: “In 2016, the international arbitral tribunal decided in favor of the Philippines…. China is the only nation in Asia that does not recognize nor accept this decision.” (Emphasis mine)
That is not true.
In Asia, only Japan, which usually follows the American line in international relations and which has a more serious territorial dispute with China involving the Senkaku islands, supported the award. All other Asian countries issued only vague statements that the disputes in the South China Sea should be settled peacefully.
Despite the undiplomatic demands of Aquino’s foreign affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario, the Asean refused to issue a statement supporting the arbitration award. Taiwan even vehemently protested the award, since the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Taiping island it had transformed into a scuba dive resort with a five-star hotel and an airport is just a “rock.”
Only the US and Australia — which don’t have any claim or hold territory in the South China Sea — asked China to abide by the award. The European Union simply “acknowledged” the award but emphasized it doesn’t take sides in territorial disputes of other countries.
(For an entity that pretends to be part of the academe, the SWS didn’t even fact-check its statements. There no such thing as “International Arbitral Tribunal.” It was the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the Hague that issued the arbitration award.)
Lie No. 2. The SWS in its questionnaire says: “China continues to aggressively claim and illegally intrude into the islands in the West Philippine Sea. Its aggressive actions include constructing infrastructures in some islands in the waters of the West Philippine Sea.” Who wouldn’t be angry at China with such an assertion?
That’s a patent lie though. The infrastructure China has built in the area are all on the seven reefs it has occupied, which before would be submerged during high tide. China is making do with what it has. Sadly, our government don’t seem to have the means to do that, so President Estrada ordered grounded a rusting World War 2 ship at Ayungin Shoal, to serve as our “infrastructure.”
China in fact is the only claimant country in the South China Sea that doesn’t occupy an island, with Vietnam having the most islands, and the Philippines running second. There has been no island in the South China Sea — certainly not our Kalayaan group of islands — into which China has intruded into before or after the award.
Here, the SWS again demonstrates its dark art of manipulating a poll to produce the results it wants to. After painting China as a villain in its preface to its poll questions — that “it has been condemned by an international tribunal, that it is intruding into islands in the West Philippine Sea” — it asks its respondents to reply to the question: “Do you trust China”?
That’s just like: “Your neighbor is a land-grabber. How much trust do you have in him?”
Yet it is even astonishing that after painting China as the villain in Asia, 18 percent reported it has “much trust.” SWS of course cleverly didn’t have a category of “some trust” or “little trust.”
In contrast to SWS’ portrait of Filipinos distrusting China, the respected US-based Pew Research Center’s poll of 2,500 Filipinos in November 2017 reported that from 43 percent in 2015, 67 percent of Filipinos favor a strong economic relationship with China. From 41 percent, only 28 percent favor “being tough with China on territorial disputes.”
The only valid aspect of the SWS poll is its findings on what to do with regard to our territorial dispute with China. As one would expect, 73 percent thought that we should have direct, bilateral negotiations with China while 74 percent think the issue be brought before international organizations for diplomatic negotiations. Of course, in line with its real agenda, the SWS didn’t ask respondents if they think Aquino’s move to bring China to court was a good idea.
The SWS real agenda? As has been the Yellow strategy, to portray public opinion as being against Duterte for his policy of strengthening our country’s ties with China despite our territorial disputes.
It doesn’t seem coincidental that SWS released its garbage a few days after another kind of garbage appeared — a tarpaulin put up in a pedestrian overpass trying to rouse Filipinos against Duterte by the announcement, “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China.”
Both tacks are designed to block Duterte’s policy towards China, which would distance us away from decades-old vassalage to the US, which the Yellows want to maintain ever since they captured power in 1986.
SWS should be transparent, and disclose who funded its anti-Duterte, anti-China poll. Could it be the billionaire who was the foreign secretary who lost Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese because he trusted the US too much, or worse, misheard what the US operatives told him?