We have become a leaderless nation

  • Reading time:9 mins read

THE China Coast Guard’s pouncing on our vessels to prevent them from supplying the beached BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal reveals what has become of this nation since President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. took power: We have become a leaderless nation.

Of course, Marcos, with his family, wields the powers and enormous benefits of the presidency under the Constitution, but he has done after two years little, if any, to lead the nation.

By leadership, I mean what former president Duterte did. He waged a war against drugs, even if bloody, and broke the back of this scourge. He accelerated infrastructure construction through his build-build-build program. He enacted a Comprehensive Tax Reform Program which has strengthened government finances. He doubled our soldiers’ and policemen’s salaries, which was a factor in the low crime rates during his term. He all but dismantled the communist insurgency. Why, he undertook seemingly small reforms, such as the cleanup of the Manila Bay coast and the “detoxification” of Boracay, that demonstrated how much government can do if it puts its mind to it.

What leadership has Marcos demonstrated? His 27 trips to 17 countries (or about every month so far), for each of which he boasted billions of dollars in investment pledges that have not materialized to this day? His creation of the Maharlika Investment Fund launched in February 2023, financed by the central bank and Development Bank of the Philippines taxpayers’ money that so far has not invested a single dollar anywhere. His holding of the agriculture portfolio for 17 months that led to roller-coaster prices in agriculture products and delayed urgent reforms in the Agriculture Department? The fall in the value of the peso from P55.7 to the dollar to yesterday’s P59 β€” expected to hit P60?

However, Marcos’ biggest “non-leadership” is with regard to our antagonistic relations with China and the country’s reversion to a US puppet, a dangerous status for us in the new geopolitical situation involving China’s plan to recover its rogue province Taiwan. For the first time since the Cold War ended in 1991, we have been put in the cross-hairs of the nuclear missile launchers of China, North Korea and even Russia.

The recent Ayungin incident that occurred on June 17 is another stark demonstration of our country being leaderless or lacking a visible leader of our own. The incident occurred more than a week ago, which is the most serious confrontation between our forces and China’s. It not only could have even triggered a violent engagement between China and the Philippines. It could have drawn the US into a skirmish, which could have led β€” I do not exaggerate β€” to a nuclear war between the two powers.

Six days

But six days after the incident, it has been merely business as usual β€” or pleasure β€” for Marcos. He has been doing what he has been doing in the past two years, which is to saunter through his presidency and party. In the past week after the Ayungin incident, he was guest of honor at a party for our athletes who will compete in the 2024 Olympic Committee, in the inaugural all-out bash of tycoon Andrew Tan’s Grand Westside Hotel in which he was even the guest speaker, and presumably, the regular dinners with his fancy restaurants with his wife.

Marcos has not faced the nation to explain how he intends to handle this very serious quarrel with China, which President Benigno Aquino 3rd started and which President Duterte had patched up. Marcos even worsened our diplomatic relations so much that China is on the brink of using its economic clout to hit us.

It may have started already, as Chinese investment inflow has ground to a halt, with investments even being pulled out. Chinese exports of bananas from the Philippines have been cut by 44 percent from January to May this year, compared to the same period last year, resulting in the loss of $170 million in income for our farmers.

All previous administrations would have convened the National Security Council consisting of nearly all department heads (not just its secretariat of bureaucrats ignorant over geopolitics) to get experts’ views on how to deal with China, or even the Council of State that includes previous presidents, and even the opposition.


What body did he convene after the serious Ayungin incident? The National Maritime Council, created only in March, headed by the executive secretary, the secretaries of 10 departments, the solicitor general and the director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Council. The government has over a dozen of this type of mostly useless or stamp-pad “councils,” which are attended mostly by assistant secretaries and even directors.

It was the “National Maritime Council,” really Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, that Marcos used to de-escalate the belligerent statements of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., National Security Council Eduardo AΓ±o, the blusterer PCG spokesman Jay Tarriela, who has stupidly been calling on the world to join the country to wage war on China over Ayungin shoal.

Contradicting the claims of brutality of the Chinese against PCG and Navy sailors, Bersamin described the incident as a mere “accident” and “misunderstanding,” that it wasn’t an “armed attack” that could be a ground to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US, that the Philippines should “talk” with China for a peaceful settlement of our dispute with it.

Tarriela β€” who is so ignorant about the dispute that he thinks our “exclusive economic zone” is another term for our territorial seas where we have absolute sovereignty β€” revealed something that indicates that Marcos indeed has not exercised his leadership over this major, if not the most serious, problem facing the country.


Tarriela said the other day that resupply missions to the Sierra Madre would have to be approved by the President. So, he’s saying that the past six supply missions, which had risked the lives of our servicemen and which had been used by the PCG to portray China as a “brutal” aggressor, weren’t approved by Marcos, that he was kept in the dark about it?

Marcos must exert his leadership in this issue that, if unresolved, could even lead to our economic ruin, which most certainly would happen if China β€” which accounts for 20 percent of our total trade β€” breaks off economic relations with the country.

What exactly is our endgame in our conflict with China over the Ayungin Shoal? Is it the kind of thinking that Tarriela has been imposing on us, that we should persist in defying the superpower and insist on bringing whatever supplies we want to the Sierra Madre until the US intervenes to help us?

But Tarriela and Teodoro are deluded on this matter.


Anybody who has read a single book on modern China would have no doubts at all that hell would have to freeze over, and the Chinese Communist Party would have to be overthrown before China gives up Ayungin Shoal, which it claims is part of its Nansha sovereign archipelago, a fact which Tarriela is not even aware of.

Teodoro, on the other hand, says that building up our own war apparatus β€” which, of course, will be bought by the defense department he heads β€” will allow us to fight China. How crazy is that: the People’s Liberation Army is the third most powerful military force in the world, ours the 34th. And it took China more than three decades to become a rich country, to be able to have huge budgets to have such a powerful military.

The US will never ever go to war against China over the Ayungin Shoal. Aquino 3rd in June 2012 even went to Washington, D.C., to beg President Obama during the Scarborough Shoal stand-off for US warships to escort both Chinese and Philippine vessels out of the area to revert to the status quo. Obama refused to help and instead got a State Department assistant secretary, Kurt Campbell, to fool our ambassador Jose Cuisia, saying that China had agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal, that eventually Aquino ordered our ships there to get out β€” in effect abandoning it. Don’t we learn from history?

If it is totally useless for us to fight China in the hope that we could recover Ayungin and Scarborough, why is our government insisting on pursuing this line? China will, I think, forcibly tow away the Sierra Madre, and we won’t be able to do anything about it.

Or perhaps Marcos Jr. indeed is not really our leader but US President Biden, or more likely, a cabal of the US “deep state” out to demonize China before it finally strikes, as it did with Iraq in 2003.

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

X: @bobitiglao


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