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Now, this is a leader, and not a populist one

TO be honest, my admiration for President Duterte went up a few notches with his principled stand on the Recto Bank incident, despite the hysterical screams of the Yellows and even of people you would have thought were sober, for him to bash China for the Reed Bank incident.

A columnist presented the supposed calculus, that polls show that Filipinos mistrust the Chinese, that Duterte better read the writing on the wall — a steep fall in his popularity. “So, what?” I bet Duterte would say.

I nearly fell off my seat in astonishment over a Philippine Star column the other day that implied that the military might just decide to topple Duterte because of his stance on the Recto Bank incident. That that “column feed” appeared in that paper isn’t really surprising.

I suspect that’s the line being spread now by China-bashing fire-eater, Aquino 3rd’s foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, who lost for us Scarborough Shoal and allegedly unsuccessfully, shamelessly begged for US military might to recover it for us.

After all, the Philippine Star is controlled by the Indonesian Anthoni Salim, for whom del Rosario has worked for decades and to whose conglomerate he owes his vast wealth. Another column in that paper was as ass-licking to him, claiming that Duterte’s stance is such because “China is his benefactor.” What?

I use the term Recto Bank incident because the detailed facts haven’t been determined at this point. I can’t call it a “maritime accident” as information could surface that it might either be a hostile ramming, or alternatively an unintentional collision.

It is sickening how mainstream media’s inaccuracies, their bias, could persist, as many in the press now — even a colleague with academic background — refer to the incident as “the ramming and sinking of a Filipino fishing vessel.” (How inflammatory can one get?) The dictionary defines “to ram” as to drive into (another vehicle or vessel) “in an attempt to stop or damage it.” Is there information that established this?

That description of the incident is totally false, at least going by the facts and testimonies so far made available to the public. How can the fishermen call it a ramming, when by their account they were awakened in the night by the collision? How can it be a sinking, when, as is very clear in the photos of the vessel, it hasn’t sunk, has arrived at its destination, and unloaded its cargo of fish?

Duterte certainly isn’t taking the easy road in this issue.Brainwashed by the Americans, Filipinos really have always had an anti-Chinese bias, mitigated only in the past few decades as they were awed — as we always are by power and wealth — by the Chinese-Filipino taipans.

Del Rosario will use to the hilt the Salim media empire, which includes not only the Philippine Star, but BusinessWorld, Philstar, TV5 and even the anti-Duterte Philippine Daily Inquirer, in which Manuel V. Pangilinan still has a 20-percent stake in. Intent on avenging his humiliation, del Rosario now has his ADR Stratbase Institute and got nearly all of the Filipino China-experts from the academe (most probably paying them way above university rates) to churn out propaganda against China, disguised as academic research papers.

Biding its time
After all, the owners of PDI have been merely biding their time to help Duterte’s opponents in a crisis the paper has been praying would break out. ABS-CBN of course is now frothing at the mouth in its anger at Duterte, with the renewal of its franchise fading every year under this president. The US-funded Rappler is ecstatic over the issue that it thinks has put Duterte in a bind.

Indeed, the observations of a 2012 research study on press coverage of the Scarborough Shoal stand-off that year still describes the media coverage on the recent Reed Bank incident: “Almost all of the articles spoke negatively of China, with very few exceptions. The adjectives used to describe China include “arrogant,” “aggressive,” and with the word “bully” appearing most frequently. Others said that China is “overwhelming” or “intimidating” the Philippines, while yet another simply said he was “upset by the action of the Chinese government.” Most of the articles also show lack of trust in China in different aspects. In relation to the Scarborough Shoal stand-off, one columnist suggested that “…there is every indication that the Chinese provocation has been orchestrated…”

People get their views mostly from media, and less and less from the schools and churches. With that kind of coverage it certainly isn’t surprising that most Filipinos mistrust China.

The huge problem in our relationship — or tiffs — with China, which isn’t a factor in our relationships with other countries and which we should be well aware of, is this: The US, especially since its “Pivot to Asia” policy started by President Obama in 2011, is a diabolical participant. The Filipino term for it is “nangsusul-sol.”

High in the US foreign-policy agenda — even explicitly discussed in Washington circles — is to stop China’s rise as a superpower in Asia, where it is logically the hegemon. The US is actually handicapped here as it has no business at all in the South China Sea, since it has absolutely no territorial claims in the area. The only excuse it can give for its fleet of warships patrolling it as if it were an American lake, is to ensure all countries’ “freedom of navigation” there. Well, China is quickly building its blue-water fleet, will the US allow it to undertake its own freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea?

In contrast to the US, China has sovereignty claims against littoral states in the South China Sea, flashpoints the Americans want to ignite into a conflagration against the superpower.

Pivot to Asia
A big part of the US “pivot to Asia” involves the molding of public opinion, especially in Southeast Asia, for the nations there to view China as an expansionist power. It would throw all its media and political resources to exploit any incident involving China and other Southeast Asian countries to portray the superpower as the Asian Evil Empire.

A prime example of this is the innocuously named Asia Maritime Transparency Institute (AMTI), run totally by Americans. It was set up to follow through the US success in demonizing China in the Scarborough Shoal stand-off, by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the most powerful and influential American think-tanks.

AMTI has been the conduit of the US in releasing to the public satellite photos of the contested areas in the South China Sea, which the local press has been relying on. Like del Rosario’s ADRI, it regularly churns out articles against China disguised as academic works.

One columnist the other day wrote: “The President must realize that there is now a growing sentiment even among his supporters that he has been too soft on and cautious with China.”

While that certainly sounds like another case of writers claiming to have a privileged insight into the minds of Filipinos, Duterte would likely reply to that kind of argument: “E, ano?”

Now that is leadership. A leader doesn’t simply obey the mob or bow to surveys. He does what the cold facts, and his experience, tell him to do.




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