WELL, going by the statements of three senators, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman, very disappointingly of the new defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. as well as Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner, and the headlines of the Philippines Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, a state of war exists, or will soon exist, between us and China, ever since the Chinese coast guard used water cannons against our PCG vessels.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in the halls of the Senate called me a traitor — for reporting an incontrovertible fact that his father Erap when he was president, or his administration, had promised the Chinese that the BRP Sierra Madre and the BRP Benguet — the former deliberately run aground in Ayungin Shoal, the latter in Scarborough Shoal — would be towed away. This is an incontestable fact, bolstered by the Foreign Affairs secretary’s and Erap’s Defense secretary’s silence on this issue.
Brainless as this senator is, that promise was really a smart move on Erap’s part, as it gave China an excuse not to pressure us for 15 years to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, which was just kilometers from their huge artificial island turned into an advanced military base at Mischief Reef, with Erap’s successor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo very successfully making China our friend.
The Chinese moved to call on the promise only in 2013, in retaliation against the Aquino 3rd government’s hostile filing of the “arbitration” suit against China. The Marcos Jr. administration’s agreement to let the US military use nine of our camps and airports to pre-position war materiel and house their troops then prompted the Chinese to pressure us to abide by the commitment, to make sure that the BRP Sierra Madre isn’t expanded into a permanent facility, and even turned over to the US as a tenth site that it could use.
Jinggoist Jinggoy even falsely claimed that Erap’s defense secretary, Orlando Mercado, had claimed that there was no such promise. Mercado, however, has not denied it. He even revealed that Erap in fact ordered the BRP Benguet towed away a few weeks after it was grounded. The Navy rushed to implement his order, even to the extent of hiring a Malaysian tugboat to tow it away, as the BRP Benguet’s engines weren’t working.
Jinggoy, unsurprisingly, of course, doesn’t know the usage of the word “traitor,” which in actual use refers to a citizen of one country giving away state, especially military, secrets to a nation it is at war with. Jinggoy in his deluded mind thinks we are at war with China, or are about to go into war with it. Jinggoy is certainly Exhibit A for the proposition to abolish the Senate and adopt a single-chamber parliamentary system.
Why, this PCG spokesman Jay Tarriela, without naming names, similarly claimed that those “who make excuses for China’s aggressive behavior should be deemed unpatriotic and a traitor to the Philippines.” He even suggests that press freedom be curtailed for such people — exactly the practice in a time of war.
It is the Philippine Military Academy’s fault that Tarriela is so belligerent; he seems to be praying for war with China. In 2004, the PMA investigated Tarriela, along with seven other cadets, for alleged cheating in their management information science class. Then-major Edgard Arevalo (who later became a brigadier general and AFP spokesman for several years and is now a columnist for this paper) headed the PMA’s honor committee that investigated the case. He informed media that the committee had found prima facie evidence that the eight cadets cheated in their management information science class and should therefore be kicked out of the PMA. Tarriela and his co-accused, though, succeeded in getting a regional trial court to order a stop to the investigation, something that had never happened in the PMA’s history and was a slap on the institution. Tarriela and his gang apparently chose to move on, and he left the PMA and joined the Philippine Coast Guard as an ensign, the lowest commissioned rank.
And this alleged academic cheater would lecture me on patriotism, accusing me and others who speak the truth as “traitors”? And he would even claim that freedom of expression doesn’t include disagreeing with China-bashers like him. This is an official that Ambassador Jose Romualdez praises to high heavens?
If Tarriela had gotten to graduate from the PMA and joined the Army, I’m sure he would have had some experience in the horrors of war, even if just with the NPA, and wouldn’t be, as the activist term puts it, “utak-pulbura,” or a brainless oaf raring for war.
In the case of Tarriela and other of our fake patriots, so true is the aphorism by an 18th-century British intellectual: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
Barely a month after being appointed as AFP chief of staff, Brawner declares the Navy will defy China and resupply the Marines in the BRP Sierra Madre. Did he have to tell that to the world, which is practically giving the Chinese the dirty finger?
Do what you have to do or think what you have to do, General Brawner, but don’t tell China your plans, which after reading you will now certainly double or even triple their coast guard vessels — I suspect even have scores of their fishermen — to blockade Ayungin Shoal, just as they did in Scarborough Shoal in 2012.
The Philippine Star’s headline was as false as it was obviously intended to practically say we are already at war with China: “Water cannons on Phl navy ship an act of war,” was its August 12 screaming deadline, quoting AFP Chief Brawner.
That’s very wrong: water cannons were aimed not at a Navy ship but at a PCG vessel. Brawner also struggled to claim that the China Coast Guard was actually military, as the CCG is under the Chinese government’s Central Military Commission. Brawner’s statements are astonishing: We have the head of our armed forces, which is among the weakest in the world, insisting we are already at war with China?
Worse, though, is the new Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. saying, according to the Philippines Daily Inquirer, that China has invaded the country through its West Philippine Sea incursions. This is dangerous for us: We have a defense secretary who obviously hasn’t studied our disputes with China.
I’ll repeat the truth again and again, no matter what these fake patriots say about me. I will speak truth to power and explain again and again:
We have a dispute with China (and with Vietnam) involving, for the Chinese, their claimed territory, which they call their Nansha Archipelago (Kalayaan Island Group, KIG; international name, Spratlys), which they have for hundreds of years considered an integral, sovereign part of China. On the other hand, we claim that we have sovereign rights over much of the KIG because our exclusive economic zone (measured 200 nautical miles from our land territory) encompasses this area. We had also claimed that the Kalayaan Island Group was also declared part of Philippine territory when Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. annexed it in 1978, although our officials strangely are no longer pursuing this argument.
No other country, no body in the world can declare which country is right or wrong in its claims. Even the US officially recognizes this dispute and has declared itself neutral on it.
Ayungin Shoal, the Chinese claim, is part of their Nansha Archipelago. We claim it is within our EEZ. When they fire water cannons against our ships, the Chinese feel they are merely defending their territory from our intrusion. We, on the other hand, scream that, as Teodoro and Tarriela do, that the Chinese have invaded our territory, and therefore we are at war with them.
There are over 150 ongoing territorial disputes in the world, and in the case of the Spratlys, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and even Brunei claim what we claim. Only a few of these territorial disputes have resulted in military conflict, most famously between China and Vietnam over the Paracel Islands in 1974 and then a part of the Spratly Islands in 1988.
Why is it that all the disputes among countries, those over the Spratlys have become so heated that China is being portrayed as an Evil Expansionist? Isn’t it obvious? The US is using this dispute as its propaganda weapon against its sole rival as a superpower in Asia. Was it just a coincidence that tension between us and China had built up after US President Obama’s launching of America’s “Pivot to Asia” policy in 2009, a thinly veiled program to stop China’s rise in Asia?
Note that China was still poor when it fought Vietnam, and won. Now it is an economic and military power due to its amazing mix of command economy and capitalist competition.
Seriously, do we really want war over an area that Vietnam et al. also claim? Or are Tariella, Teodoro, Brawner and their likes in delusion that the US will come to our aid? The US won’t. That was already proven when we lost Scarborough Shoal, because even after Aquino 3rd and Albert del Rosario begged the Americans to escort our vessels that were in a standoff with Chinese ships, US President Obama himself rejected the pleas. Instead, the Americans fooled us into withdrawing, a fact I have narrated in several columns and reported in several media and scholarly accounts.
These guys apparently haven’t heard of the fact that “negotiations” and “diplomacy” settled 95 percent of territorial disputes in the world. Marcos Jr. should assert his leadership and order his officials to stop their warmongering.
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