Warning China

"The stakes are too high."



In a rare show of exasperation, President Rodrigo Duterte warned China not to push its boundaries past Pagasa. It was the first time the Philippine president used strong language in asserting  the country's territorial sovereignty against an aggressive China. 

The presidential outburst was triggered by reports of  a fleet of Chinese warships near Pagasa known also as Scarborough Shoal. Filipino fishermen earlier reported the Chinese gunboat and complained that they were being prevented to fish in waters well within the 200-mile Philippine exclusive economic zone mandated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But China—which considers itself outside the UNCLOS accord including The Hague arbitration tribunal that ruled against its sweeping claim of nearly the  entire South China Sea—continues to militarize the region.

The stakes in the South China Sea are the enormous oil, gas and mineral resources under the seabed which China needs to achieve its agenda to rise as a superpower and surpass the United States.

President Duterte meanwhile has alarmed the populace with his recent statement he would "suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term in 2022."

The president's threat drew a reaction from lawyer Egon Cayosa of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The IBP official said Mr. Dutere as president can suspend the writ of habeas corpus, but only for 60 days and if there is rebellion or foreign invasion. This was according to the Constitution, Cayosa said. He also pointed out that President Duterte said "revolutionary war," not revolutionary government, adding that if it's the latter, then he would have to resign with Vice President Leni Robredo taking over in the order of succession when the head of state resigns due to health incapacity, death or inability to govern.

Cory Aquino declared a revolutionary government because she was not elected president  but was swept to the presidency as an aftermath of the EDSA People Power uprising on Feb. 22, 1986.

President Duterte's outburst was brought about by his own words that he has enough problems with critics adding to his woes. These problems include the proliferation of illegal despite his bloody campaign against it, the P5 billion in damaged agricutural crops because of El Niño which also resulted in water shortage in Metro Manila, the monstrous traffic and now the adverse public opinion against his close ties with China despite its agressive action in the West Philippine Sea. 

But he sought the presidency and won it so he must deal with the problems that come with it and not show his breaking point.

Carry on, Mr. President, you're tougher than your critics think. Otherwise, hand the presidency over to someone who can cope. We are not necessarily thinking of VP Robredo.  What does the law say about holding a snap election to choose a new chief executive like then-President Ferdinand Marcos did while still in power?   

For sure the wannabes will come out of the woodwork.. Expect among them as presidential candidates Senators Richard Gordon, Ping Lacson, Franklin Drilon, Grace Poe and even boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

Poe, Mar Roxas and Manny Villar would probably try a second attempt to win as president.

It's not too far-fetched for Manny Pacquiao to emerge as winner considering his popularity with the masa and his image that he amassed his money though hard work with his iron fists.

Is Manny smart enough to lead a country? To this question, I say any one who won more 50 fights and captured world titles in eight divisions must be a smart man who used his brains aside from his blazing fists. Besides, Manny Pacquiao plays chess, the thinking man's game.

To help him govern, all Manny needs is a capable vice president who has a deep knowledge of the bureaucracy and the intricacies of handling tradpols who might want to undermine him with their corrupt ways and self interests.

In order to preclude the possibility of having a vice president from another party elected, perhaps a constitutional amendment to have  the country's president and veep must be elected together like in the US. This ensures continuity in the government's policy and program.

Under the US setup, the Vice President presides over the Senate and attends foreign events the President cannot go to. Or if the Vice President  has the credentials, he can also be appointed as Secretary of Foreign Affairs attending international events as the president's point man.

A president and his vice president if from the same party can work as team. We won't have the  same situation like Robredo who is out of the Duterte administration because she was from another political party. This is unfair to the people who voted for her as No. 2 official not to see her doing any work to serve them. President Duterte when abroad to attend meetings with global leaders, doed not assign Robredo as acting president but instead names his executive secretary or some other functionary to act as chief executive. This is rather irregular that the head of state does not trust his vice president because she comes from another political party. How much harm or damage can someone do in a temporary capacity? Plus, there are constitutional limitations to her powers while in an acting capacity.

This is why  the time has come for a charter amendment mandating that president and vice president from the same party must be voted together

As far as I can recall, there has been no instance in Philippine politics that the president and vice president from the same party were elected together. This is why there is so much political intrigue and the perception that the No.2 official is salivating to become No.1. 

Another constitutional amendment we should consider is changing the single six-year term for president to just five like in other countries. Six years is too long for a bad president. Shortening this term to just five would make the incumbent do all he can to leave a legacy of good governance.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , West Philippine Sea , Manny Pacquiao , United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , China
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