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Demanding accountability is not war

"Chinese nationals who violate our laws should be dealt with as the law provides, because that is the law, and it is law that ensures social order."

The sorry debacle of the 22 Recto Bank fishermen is an object lesson in current Philippine diplomacy—act tough against other countries, roll over and play dead when it comes to China.

I saw the Batman-slapping-Robin meme recently on Facebook, with these captions—Robin: “Ano gusto mo, giyera? E di nalusaw tayo! Shut up ka na la…” Batman (slaps Robin): “False dichotomy! Pwede naman mag-demand ng accountability without going to war.”

And there lies the crux of the issue. Despite the fishers’ and Vietnamese crew’s accounts and testimonies, despite all the facts at hand, the government still panders to China’s sensibilities, to the point where an unnecessary joint investigation is being discussed.

President Rodrigo Duterte pooh-poohed the matter, mouthing the Chinese script that it’s just a minor maritime incident—“banggaan ng mga barko.” He says sanctioning China on these and their other depredations in the West Philippine Sea and areas in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone might lead to a war that the Philippines can never win.

That’s the bogey he keeps scaring us with—if we go against China on anything, they might retaliate with their superior firepower that our puny guns have no chance against. That’s the line his supporters are also taking.

Let’s break that down.

By saying that China will get back at us if we demand their accountability, he is acknowledging that China is a bully we can’t afford to anger.

He is confirming that China is crazy enough to go to war if they are thwarted.

He is affirming that China is on a mission of domination and that the Philippines should just play along.

That’s a dangerous line to take, because it makes China look very, very bad. Has he or anyone else in his government realized this? Does anyone in the administration have any modicum of critical thinking skills enough to say, Hey, maybe we should think before we speak?

Making China accountable for their actions means taking a stern line and enforcing the law without fear or favor, as Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries in Southeast Asia are doing. They are standing up to the bully. They are more courageous than our current government and I salute them.

The people of Hong Kong, too, recently took to the streets in a massive protest against Beijing and a policy to extradite HK residents to the mainland. Hong Kong’s leader backed down. That’s the way to make bullies stop—by standing up to them.

Bullies gain dominance over another person through intimidation, violence, and other means in an effort to crush the person’s spirit, lower their self-esteem, and take away their confidence.

Somehow China has succeeded in doing this to our government’s leaders—they have been cowed into submission. They’re the kid who tamely hands over his lunch and allowance to the playground brute. Except that it’s not schoolkids, it’s countries, and it’s not lunch, it’s our national resources and national pride.

There were instances during the past administration that the country showed China they could not get away with their plundering of our resources. Perhaps the most recent was in 2014, when the Philippines jailed 11 Chinese fishermen caught with 350 endangered sea turtles off Half Moon Shoal in the Kalayaan Islands, “rejecting demands from China to free the men,” according to a May 10, 2014, Reuters report.

So that happened, but neither side declared war. The law can be enforced without having to go to war. Chinese nationals who violate our laws should be dealt with as the law provides, because that is the law, and it is law that ensures social order. If China goes to war with us over such, then it’ll prove that they are indeed a bully—is that what they really want?

Bahala na si Batman, because he’s right, you know. Demanding accountability does not mean war. 

Filipinos are not cowards—except for some. You know who they are. //FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Recto Bank , China , Philippines , Courage , South China Sea , West Philippine Sea , Rodrigo Duterte
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