Stop this gutter level of arguing over the SCS issue

  • Reading time:10 mins read

I FOUND it shocking for this respected paper that a column — written by its newly appointed executive editor, Chin Wong — has gone to the gutter level of discourse over an important national issue: our disputes with China over control of South China Sea areas. I don’t know where he got the temerity to accuse me and others who have not toed the US anti-China line of being mercenaries paid by Beijing to disseminate our views.

He has been able to do this in an underhanded manner through his column’s writing style, which has long been banned in serious journalism and used only in spoofs and comedy skits. This consists of fictional conversations that put words in the mouths of people who are not named but are quite easily identified by readers or the audience.

For example, Wong’s style of writing columns would report the recent incident in Malacañang during the Independence Day vin d’honneur as follows:

Politician: “Madame, would you like to have champagne?

Famous Lady: “Just give me your glass, pronto.” After getting the politician’s glass and gulping it down, she says: “Next time, be sure the champagne is properly cooled, or I will get my husband to fire you ASAP.”

Invented

Of course, I invented that conversation, but the impression would be left in most readers’ minds — as they can easily identify the politician as Senate President Chiz Escudero and the “Famous Lady” as first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos — that the two said those words.

Funny, of course, but that fictional conversation would be a biased communication to readers alleging that Escudero is so servile to the first lady, who is arrogant and petty and can order her husband around.

On the other hand, a serious — and fair — journalist would write an opinion piece that would discuss the credibility of the various explanations of the incident (including the first lady’s), why it went viral, and even maybe its impact on this presidency’s image.

It is a sickening kind of writing that Wong uses in his column in this paper. Perhaps this is due to the fact that his column that started in February is the first time he is writing a general-topic column. His experience in column writing had solely been on digital technology in a magazine he had set up with his close friend in the computer business. That closed down many years ago, though, for some reason. His last employment was as a deskman at the Manila Standard.

Funny

Wong may think his columns are funny or cute, and indeed, if expertly done, this style of writing offers a comedic respite in the field of serious journalism. But that requires a high caliber of imagination and wit, way beyond Wong’s skills.

But that would still be fiction. That kind of writing doesn’t have any place in responsible journalism. It is, in fact, an abuse of journalism, as one doesn’t identify the people involved in the conversation but who can be identified by most readers.

Wong’s column last Saturday was titled “Slow Boat to China,” from a popular song in the 1940s that has become a racist, anti-Chinese phrase meant to mock anything that takes long.

His fictional conversation is between officials of an “embassy,” of which country he doesn’t say. But this is obviously the Chinese Embassy since he writes that the topic of the identified officials’ heated conversation is current news with headlines, “9 out of 10 Filipinos distrust China” and “76 percent of Filipinos see China as the biggest threat.”

Accusation

It is here that Wong makes a grave accusation against writers like me who do not toe the anti-China US line. He writes in his column: “What are you doing wrong?” the director asked the embassy official who was in charge of liaising with the local journalists, academics and a variety of society elites. “Surely you are throwing enough money around at the right people?”

Wong writes: “Of course, sir. The usual suspects — the politicians, the think tank analysts, the select columnists — they’ve all wet their beaks on our yuan.” (Itals mine.)

In effect, hiding beneath his style of fictional conversation, he has accused me and my colleagues in this newspaper, who aren’t echo chambers of the US propaganda apparatus, of being on China’s payroll. Wong insults several other columnists in this paper that he is executive editor of — Ricardo Saludo, Malou Tiquia, Ana Malindog-Uy, Ado Paglinawan, Mao Samonte, Wilson Lee Flores — and other deep and critical thinkers such as Sass Rogando Sassot, Herman Tiu Laurel, Daniel Long, even the venerable Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, and intellectual-businessmen who are members of the Association for Philippine-China Understanding.

There are many others known for their critical thinking who have challenged the US line, who are man-for-man intellectually superior to the pro-US writers on this issue, most of whom obviously have not been studying the issue but merely lifted from US propaganda sheets.

Disguised

Wong’s accusation is a very serious allegation, even if disguised in a piece using a fictional conversation style. It is a gutter way of debating a topic that has become so vital to this nation’s future.

I have written 80 columns in the past 10 years and a book on the South China Sea exposing the US lies to advance its agenda to maintain its hegemony in Asia — none of which have been challenged except by trolls and netizens using aliases that have not posted arguments but merely slogans or ad hominems.

This thesis, in fact, has been bolstered by the British news service Reuters’ expose released the other day — and confirmed by the US military the following day — that the Pentagon, during the pandemic, undertook a secret, intense program using mainstream and social media to claim that Chinese vaccines didn’t work.

If the US could do that to badmouth Chinese vaccines, wouldn’t it be undertaking a bigger propaganda operation to demonize China itself, using the South China Sea disputes?

Bobi

Our ambassador to the US, Jose Romualdez, whom I once angered for pointing out that his columns read not as columns of the Philippine ambassador to the US but of the US ambassador to Manila, perhaps after several glasses of scotch, like an illiterate bully, made an irritating sport of punning on my nickname, calling me “Bobi, bobo” in his column. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, angered after I wrote that it was his father who first made an agreement with China that we cannot supply the BRP Sierra Madre with construction and repair material, made a privileged speech in which he proclaimed that I was “gago,” although he didn’t say whether he meant that word to mean “stupid” or “naughty.” The PCG spokesman Jay Tarriela, who sounds as if he were the Pentagon spokesman, once accused me of aging in reverse, using the very insulting Filipino phrase for that.

But they never accused me of being on the payroll of China. Only cowardly, anonymous trolls have done that. Now here comes Wong, having just crawled out of his cubicle as an obscure deskman at the Romualdez-owned Manila Standard, probably feeling hubristic that he is now the top dog in this newspaper, accuses people like me and others who are very much respected in journalism and in the academe, of being paid by China for writing views that do not conform with the US narrative.

Wong doesn’t even answer the question that was the topic of his column, which is why China is mistrusted by “nine of ten Filipinos.” Wong apparently is unaware of the big flaw in modern polls: Responses depend a lot on media coverage at the time of the polls. Day after day in the period when that poll was taken were front-page articles and huge photos of Chinese vessels water-cannoning Philippine vessels at Ayungin and Scarborough shoals. Would Filipinos be so crazy that after seeing those photos in all forms of media, they would still trust China?

Well within

The accompanying articles all reported as if it were established fact that the Filipino vessels were “well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” a term obviously used in the pieces as meaning “Philippine territory” — which they are not, but merely areas where we have certain rights to extract resources from, but have no absolute sovereignty over.

Rather it was China that had declared the area as early as the 17th century and as late as 1958 that these were parts of its sovereign territory, the Nansha archipelago. Thus, as any state would do, China was merely defending its territory from an intruder.

Our EEZ overlaps China’s territorial sea, but we refuse to recognize that Ayungin Shoal is part of China’s territorial sea, which is why the Estrada administration’s official explanation in 1999 was that the BRP Sierra Madre was accidentally grounded and that it would remove it as soon as it could.

Indeed, so true is the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates’ adage: “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. River Dweller

    Funny enough, this Chin Wong fellow doesn’t realize could be easily subjected to an Alice Guo-style debacle, where his birth and citizenship could be questioned.

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