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Atin Ito ‘swarming’: A classic budol-budol

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THE much-hyped swarming by fishermen into the China-controlled Bajo de Masinloc led by a dubious group calling itself “Atin Ito” is a classic case of budol-budol. That Hiligaynon slang has entered into popular usage throughout the country in recent times to refer initially to swindling schemes.

It has been used, though, to refer to how a particular political leader got Filipinos to vote for office.

The ex-priest, ex-communist Edicio de la Torre and the 37-year-old Rafaela David — president of the left-of-center Akbayan Party and a protégé of Sen. Risa Hontiveros — claim to be the convenors of Atin Ito. That is impossible: the 81-year-old de la Torre can hardly walk without a cane, while David has never been engaged in mass work as an Akbayan leader to be able to organize fishermen. De la Torre couldn’t even join the swarm to Bajo de Masinloc (international name: Scarborough Shoal). David was interviewed 100 kilometers from Scarborough. Emman Hizon, another spokesman in the swarm-Scarborough swindle, has been Akbayan’s spokesman for over 10 years and concurrently its deputy secretary general.

‘The flotilla that asserted Philippine rights in Scarborough.’ Yeah, right. PCG PHOTO

So, who or what could have convinced around 100 fishermen in small wooden bancas with outriggers to prevent them from capsizing to join a flotilla that sailed last Wednesday to Scarborough Shoal purportedly to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty? The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) obviously, whose spokesman Jay Tarriela had been praising the Atin Ito operation even before it was started. Tarriela, in fact, has been over-emphasizing way too much his claim that the swarm-Scarborough is entirely a civilian initiative.

But who would have the kind of military-grade buoys the Atin Ito operators deployed, which had the words “Atin Ito WPS” written on it, as their version of demonstrators’ placards? Would the fishermen with their wooden bancas follow these urban activists, who can’t even sail a banca without steel-hulled PCG vessels escorting them?


Of course, to be fair, Tarriela and the Philippine military are just adopting the tactics that the Chinese used in 2012 to prevent Filipino armed navy men from arresting Chinese fishermen in Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese sent a flotilla of their fishing vessels together with their bigger Maritime Surveillance vessels to blockade the Philippine vessels transporting the arrested Chinese fishermen.

‘Mission accomplished?’ Image by author using Google Earth Pro

After nine weeks of what has been called the Scarborough Standoff, the Philippine vessels abandoned the area — believing the lie that a US diplomat told then Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia that the Chinese had agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal.

In that episode, the Chinese fishermen were successful in doing their jobs in helping their state assert its sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal (Chinese name: Huangyan Island).

In the recent swarm-Scarborough episode organized by the PCG, though, the fishermen accepted enthusiastically the bags of food and containers of diesel that Atin Ito gave them and left while still 50 km from Scarborough.


The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the fishermen who had joined the Atin Ito operation refused to be cannon fodder, as the PCG wanted. “Leonardo Cuaresma, president of the Zambales-based New Masinloc Fishermen Association, said: ‘Parang sinabi niyong lumapit tayo kay Kamatayan ‘pag tumuloy tayo. (It’s like telling us to approach the Grim Reaper had we pushed on).’

“‘If we pushed through with our plan, we might be hit with water cannon,’ said Cuaresma, who is familiar with the area as he used to join fishing trips to Panatag.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer indeed held high the standards of journalism by refusing to believe Atin Ito’s budol operation and its claim of “Mission Accomplished,” the banner headline of nearly all broadsheets that uncritically quoted the dubious outfit spokesmen.

The Inquirer headline was sarcastic: “Panatag not reached, but still ‘mission accomplished.'” It quoted Agustin Bustillo, captain of the lead boat of the flotilla that the PCG had hired, saying they stopped about five hours away from the shoal.

He said some fishermen who were not part of the convoy were irked by the supply mission as they were worried that it would provoke the Chinese.


“There were some who complained that we’re disrupting their fishing. So we apologized to them, as we didn’t intend to bother them. But they were concerned that our actions might prompt the Chinese coast guard to stop them from fishing near the shoal,” Bustillo told the Inquirer.

It astonishes me why such a really clumsy operation fooled much of media, with all broadsheets except the Inquirer using the Atin Ito’s lie “Mission Accomplished” as their banner headlines. The Inquirer’s Randy David even amazingly wrote that the anti-China sentiments represent a “new nationalism.” What? Irrational Sinophobia based on a misunderstanding of our disputes with China is nationalistic? He probably was teary-eyed when he wrote: “Last week, we stood in total awe as a flotilla of small Filipino fishing boats headed toward Scarborough Shoal to assert the rights of Filipino fisherfolk to fish in that area.”

Our media, indeed, has gone to the dogs. Don’t the facts speak for themselves that the Atin Ito was a budol-budol? Its maximum goal was to get the poor fishermen killed when the Chinese defend, using water cannons against their flimsy bancas, what they consider as their territory. Its minimum goal was to portray them as civilians risking their lives to assert the Philippines’ sovereign rights in that shoal.


The flotilla, joined by an army of media, supposedly started early in the morning to sail to Scarborough. It stopped 100 kilometers from the shoal, purportedly after being shadowed by Chinese coast guard ships. Then its spokesman, the Akbayan deputy general secretary Hizon, claimed that there was an “advance party” the previous day that delivered the food and gasoline to fishermen 50 km from Scarborough. “Pinoy diskarte,” he explained, i.e., a maneuver that fooled the Chinese.

Hizon declared “Mission Accomplished” that it achieved a “major victory when its advance team reached the vicinity of Panatag Shoal, despite facing a massive and unlawful blocking force by China. The advance team successfully delivered supplies to the fishers in the area,”

This Akbayan people must think we are fools to easily fall for their budol scheme. The main flotilla of small fishermen’s vessels reached a point 100 kilometers from Scarborough’s 22-km territorial sea, while the “advance team” that purportedly gave the fishermen the food and diesel reached a site 80 km away. That was far from Scarborough’s territorial sea and well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, where all vessels (including the China Coast Guard’s vessels) enjoy high-seas freedom of navigation.

Atin Ito lied in claiming its flotilla asserted Philippine sovereign rights over Scarborough when the reality was that their boats were as far from the shoal as Manila is from Angeles City. It was a media production, with the fishermen lured to be the “extras” for 200 bags of groceries and 1,000 liters of diesel (and Atin Ito blue shirts). But the fishermen they brought with them had more sense — and read newspapers — that they refused to get closer to Scarborough.

It would be very interesting to find out how much government spent on this stupid operation and to detail the expenses, which could show how much Akbayan — as well as de la Torre and David — earned from their budol-budol. The kind of NGOs de la Torre joined after he left the communists had been notorious for skimming from the funds they got from bleeding-heart European NGOs.

This swarm-Scarborough budol-budol is as if Akbayan claimed their demonstrators stormed the gates of Malacañang when they were only in the vicinity of Quiapo Church.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

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My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. The Akbayad pinkos, who would like to be known as “socdems”/rejectionists as against the “natdems”/reaffirmists faction of the Philippine Left, are now merely jukeboxes and parrots of the vast US propaganda machine, one of the beneficiaries of the US$500M America Competes Act propaganda project to demonize the US’ adversaries like China, Russia and any other country that dare to become truly independent of the US’ hegemonic imperialism. These people aren’t leftists anymore, they are now activists for the PH-US elite status quo.

  2. River Dweller

    There’s a certain US president (who happens also to be the son of a president) who used that stupid “Mission Accomplished” phrase only to end up being ridiculed for it in the following years. And now we’re using it too.
    Looks like we’re truly America’s most attentive pupils – when it comes to dishonest spin.

  3. Manly Garcia

    Akbayan does not need to venture out to the sea to help the poor fishermen: they can go to the fishers village and distribute the food packs and gasoline there so easily. And they also would need to look after other fishers in so many other villages whose families survive daily through hand-t0-mouth situations. There are also poor fishers in nearby Navotas, Malabon and coastal towns of Cavite who would be thankful for their donations.

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