Generals should shut up on international disputes

ARMED Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana in a phone call disputed the headline of my column last Monday that said he “lied on new illegal structures” at Union Banks, where Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef is.

He said the headline left him seriously distressed: if he were in the Philippine Military Academy and if it was proven he lied even on a minor matter, he would be immediately dismissed.

What he said, he claimed, was that a Philippine Air Force patrol had “documented manmade structures that were built on some of the features” but didn’t say these were new or when they were built. These structures are illegal, Sobejana said.

I won’t waste my time explaining why most media, including myself, were prodded to report his discovery as new illegal structures. Suffice it to say that even the US-based high-tech firm Simularity Corp. — ironically, the firm whose photos first disclosed the presence of 200 fishing vessels at Julian Felipe — spent thousands of dollars securing satellite photos from two different agencies to verify or confirm whether there were indeed new structures.

Simularity of course didn’t find any: the Vietnamese and Chinese structures were built mostly in 2013, the colossal blowback to the Yellow regime’s filing of its arbitration suit against China. Beijing in effect told the Philippines: “You’re accusing us that our reefs should be vacated since they are mere uninhabitable rocks? Fine, we’ll transform them into islands.”

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Locsin so patently ignorant about arbitration suit

In a similar vein, sister Kris claims PH owes its freedom to Ninoy.

SFA: ‘We owe PNoy’

AS reported by the Manila Bulletin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. tweeted  on Sunday: “What cements the reefs and waters as ours is the arbitral award won by PNoy, Del Rosario et al. They had no allies; no support from other countries least of all Southeast Asia which tried to sabotage the arbitral award when they saw it coming. We owe it to PNoy et al only.”

This is so patently, incontrovertibly, inarguably wrong. It is shocking coming from the mouth of Duterte’s foreign affairs secretary.

He says we owe the arbitration award to his idol “PNoy.”   But since Duterte has all but thrown the award to the dustbin – “shelved” it, as he euphemistically puts it – isn’t Locsin in effect saying we should condemn this president for doing so? That is exactly the thrust of the Yellows’ campaign to stop his chosen successor from winning the 2022 elections. Duterte’s foreign affairs secretary is spreading the Yellow lies about our territorial disputes in the Spratlys.

If Locsin doesn’t agree with Duterte’s foreign policy, he should have the integrity to resign as foreign affairs secretary. He forgets that he doesn’t make foreign policy; he only implements that of the President.

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AFP Chief lied on new ‘illegal structures’ at Union Banks

OR perhaps Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana was just fed the wrong information or just ignorant of the Spratly Islands dispute, when he claimed last April 1 that the Chinese had built new illegal structures at Union Banks (Pagkakaisa Banks to us). 

This is the reef complex where the Julian Felipe Reef  (Whitsun Reef) is, that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana claimed on March 21, 2021, the “Chinese militia vessels” had been massing.

Lorenzana’s claim was ignored by other claimant states, even by Vietnam which has four installations built on reefs in the area: it is common knowledge that Chinese fishing fleets normally mass to seek refuge from storms in that area because its boomerang shape provides an ideal shield from tidal and storm surges. 

Sobejana, in a statement on April 1 through the government’s Philippine News Agency, announced: “During a patrol March 30, we were able to document man-made structures that were built on some of the features. These structures are illegal.” Sobejana didn’t disclose whether it was a Navy vessel or an Air Force reconnaissance plane that undertook the patrol.

No new structures. (Photo from Simularity Inc.)
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SND, SFA’s blabbing risks our life-and-death Chinese vaccine provision

THE reckless bleating of our defense and foreign affairs secretaries over alleged Chinese maritime militias in a reef we lost control of decades ago risks a scenario in which China may well decide to cancel the donation of its anti-coronavirus vaccines.

Fortunately, we have a  president more intelligent and calmer than these two. Duterte issued a statement the other day that in effect reminded everyone that we are getting vaccines from China. These vaccines have  have become in extremely short supply because the US and the rich nations have hoarded or cornered it. His statement was a message to China that he will make sure his officials don’t do anything further to risk a Chinese move to stop the supply.

I sure hope so. After a year of suffering these lockdowns, and with several friends taken down by the coronavirus, I want my vaccine now as of this hour, especially since I am in that high-risk category. What right do these officials have to risk, even by a long shot, my not being able to get it? Rich sinophobes like Albert del Rosario and Antonio Carpio, I bet, will be able to get or have already gotten their vaccines. I am waiting in a long, long line. 

‘West Philippine Sea’ — under four flags. (Map by author using Google Pro)
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Reef row: US plot in its ‘re-pivot’ to Asia

Photos provided by US entity, not PH Coast Guard

US PRESIDENT Joe Biden couldn’t have picked  more anti-China officials than US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The two were at the head of former President Obama’s so-called “Pivot to Asia,” a thinly disguised program to contain the rise of China as a superpower.

Blinken last January even told media that China posed the “most significant challenge to the US and any other country in Asia.”  Biden himself has said in several speeches that assembling a united front against China would be a top priority for his administration. It was the new administration’s “re-pivot” to Asia.

Trump, however, had that pivot twisting in the wind; after all he wasn’t really interested in geopolitics. Duterte gained power in 2016, and dropped his predecessor and the Yellows’ servile stance towards the US, and undertook a rapprochement with China that has yielded concrete benefits to the country

Blinken and Sullivan had hardly warmed their seats in late January, and after five years of calm in the South China Sea, a situation has quite suddenly emerged that portrays  China as violating Philippine “territory” by having “200 of its maritime militia vessels” intrude into “our’ Julian Felipe Reef.  It got the Philippines’ defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, and mainstream media – except this newspaper – nearly deliriously livid against the superpower.

Militias?: They’re there, one day they’re not there, away fishing. Photo from: Simularity.com
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Colossal lies, delusions on the Felipe Reef brouhaha

“First of Two Parts”

VIETNAMESE generals must be rolling on the floor with laughter, at the same time wildly cheering our defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The defense chief has been bashing the Chinese and trying to do what the Vietnamese have been wishing for fervently since 1988, which is to drive them out of that area in the Spratlys nearest to Ho Chi Minh City.

Raising the decibel of his rants the past few days, Lorenzana,  referring to  their vessels at “Julian Felipe Reef”,  commanded the Chinese “to leave our sovereign territories.”

It’s embarrassing to us as a nation to have as the head of the department tasked to defend our territory one who is so ignorant of the extent of our territorial boundaries.  No wonder the spokesman of the Chinese embassy here, which has been relatively quiet on this brouhaha in contrast to the torrent of harangues by high Philippine officials, said that Lorenzana’s statements were “perplexing.” 

Indeed, how could Lorenzana ask the Chinese to leave an area which not only they claim as their sovereign territory, but have been occupying since 1988, or more than three decades ago?

Felipe’s neighborhood: Two giants.
Felipe’s neighborhood: Two giants. Lorenzana commanded them to all leave as it is Philippine territory. Dates refer to when they were occupied. (Inset are satellite photos of installations of the two countries. Map by author using Google Earth Pro. Insets from amti.csis.org.)
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Jesus: A failed rebel, a myth or a Roman invention?

AT this time of year, when our culture, dominated for nearly four centuries by the Hispanic model of late-medieval Catholicism, imposes on us several days of contemplating the Christian Messiah, I dare discuss whether Christ did exist in the first place. Indeed, a mountain of scholarly work in the past few decades has been published trying to answer this question, mostly in the negative, at least in the way Christianity claims he is.

To start getting out of one’s mindset built since childhood, you have to recognize that in this modern age science has been the singularly powerful tool for us to understand reality, to separate what’s false and mythical, and what’s true and factual (or historical). Science just in a brief span of 100 years of modern human’s 200,000 years of existence, has unlocked the mysteries of the atom and of the human genome, so we understand now that the world is not composed of “earth, air, water and fire” nor are we just a more sophisticated form of dust.

But science has been employed not only to understand matter, but also human society itself  through such disciplines as archaeology, philology, psychology, literary and textual criticism, and sociology. So, it is not surprising at all that the social sciences have been used to study that aspect of human society that is so significant to humans: religion.

The social sciences have been employed to study the central figure of Christianity, Jesus Christ, whose death we are supposed to be commemorating today. A few similar studies have also been used to study Muhammad of Islam, although mostly by anonymous scholars, obviously afraid a fatwah would be issued against them.

Three modern narratives of Jesus.
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Nation’s fate this decade rests with virus and IATF

THE virus (officially called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) could mutate to a deadlier, more communicable form, or it could dissipate as did the “Spanish flu” in 1918. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) that President Duterte had designated to handle the government’s  efforts to contain the pandemic will be more efficient in its work, or it will prove powerless in the face of the tsunami of infections.  

These hypotheticals will determine how our country will look like for the rest of this decade. If the pandemic is not contained either due to the virus’ mutation so that it overwhelms our health services and science, or as a result of the IATF’s mismanagement (as happened in the US, Europe and Brazil), President Duterte would be a lame-duck president.  

His political support and mass popularity will collapse. When death and pestilence surrounds a people, their rationality vanishes, and they would be blaming the “father of the nation,” no matter the amount of good that he has done, and seek a new savior. Again and again demonstrated in politics, to drastically paraphrase Shakespeare, it is a president’s failures, whether avoidable or otherwise, that people remember; the good is forgotten.

If this were to happen, and it is now only 13 months to the national elections in May 2022, Duterte’s endorsement of a candidate would be a kiss of death, and the Yellows or some other opposition would assume power in July 2022, reversing all of Duterte’s policies, even his kind of strong governance. 

But if the pandemic is contained in the next three months, Filipinos’ satisfaction with Duterte will hit the roof, not just because of irrational exuberance that it was all due to presidential leadership. There likely will be an economic boom – our version of  the “Roaring 20’s” in the US after the 1917-1918 Spanish flu  epidemic – as business capacity, idled in the lockdowns, will be exploding while consumers will be buying and traveling so much, thankful that they’re alive. 

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Drilon wants govt to capitulate to communists

PERHAPS the pandemic lockdowns have gone to Sen. Franklin Drilon’s head or he has applied for membership with the Communist Party of the Philippines, but the bill he filed last week at the Senate just boggles the mind.

The Yellow Philippine Daily Inquirer headlined its report raving over Drilon’s bill, “Drilon bill to outlaw ‘red-tagging’ filed, cheered.” Cheered? Of course, no doubt by the communists, although the article quoted only one person doing so: Edre Olalia, the head of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL). Who is he?

Olalia officially has been the chief counsel of the National Democratic Front in all its negotiations with different administrations. He is also officially the personal counsel of Communist Party founder (and still its main strategist) Jose Maria Sison.

What is the NULP? The association of leftist lawyers that handled, wittingly or unwittingly, almost all legal cases of the Reds. It has been a member for nearly 10 years of Sison’s International League of People’s Struggles, which this megalomaniac thought would be kick off an international communist movement under his leadership.

Drilon’s bill (Senate Bill 2121 filed on March 21) has only one substantive section:

“Any state actor, such as a law enforcement agent, paramilitary or military personnel, who labels, vilifies, brands, names, accuses, harasses, persecutes, stereotypes, or caricatures individuals, groups or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists, shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) years and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office.” 

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Sickening politicization of the pandemic

IT’s sickening how the Yellows and those claiming to be better leaders of the country have politicized the issue of controlling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead of uniting just once so we can better meet this threat, even really know-nothing politicians like Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Nancy Binay seem to think that they could hog the headlines — for the 2022 elections of course — by taking potshots at the government’s efforts to contain the disease.

Binay, for instance, went for the quotable rather than substance by claiming that the government has had a ningas cogon attitude in combating the pandemic.

Doesn’t she read the papers, watch TV programs, in which officials of the Duterte task force on the pandemic have been briefing the nation almost daily on what it’s been doing since it was organized last year? Hasn’t she heard that government is currently deploying 52 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Chinese-made vaccines? Hasn’t she heard that government has firmed up purchase orders for 20 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, 30 million of the US-developed, Indian-manufactured Novavax/Covovax, and 15 million of the Russian Sputnik V — despite the mad scramble in the world to hoard vaccine supplies?

Rather than blabbering inanities, Binay should instead show how Covid-19 should be contained in her hometown, Makati. After all, her family has total control of the city. Yet despite being the richest city with P18 billion in revenues, and among the smallest, and with so many hospitals, Makati has the third largest cases of the disease among the country’s cities, with 20,330 as of March 23. That’s Health department data. The Makati City Facebook page reports only 13,224 cases.

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