Cowed into silence

"What has become of us as a nation?"



After keeping mum for eight days on the ramming and sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a larger Chinese fishing vessel in Recto Bank, President Rodrigo Duterte broke his silence and described it as “a little maritime incident.” He added that we were not prepared to go to war with China.

The President added that he was not ready to make a full statement until a full investigation has been completed.

Come again, Santa Banana? If the President is not yet ready to give a statement, why did he say it was a little maritime incident? It doesn’t make sense.

What was outrageous was not so much the ramming. It was the fact that the Chinese vessel turned and fled, claiming it was besieged by some eight Filipino fishing vessels. Satellite images show that there were only a few vessels in the area at that time.

This claim by the Chinese simply insults our intelligence. We know only too well that it was a hit-and-run, and the guilty party would rather run than face responsibility for what happened. What was truly abominable was that the 22 Filipino fisherman were left in the water, hanging on to dear life.

Meanwhile, our President claims we are not ready to go to war with China over the incident because it is a superpower. But who said we should go to war? What we are asking for are responsibility, accountability and reparations. The boat was lost, and the 22 fishermen nearly died.

The contradictory statements of Cabinet members, with some echoing of the Chinese claim, make it all worse. My gulay, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who is from Mindoro like the fishermen, called the incident unintentional. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called it a case of hit and run.

What’s truly tragic here is that we Filipinos seem to have been cowed into silence, knowing China’s military might. It seems we no longer have the guts to stand up to China’s bullying. Are the loans and grants worth our obeisance?

Sure, we have filed a diplomatic protest. But will China even give attention to this?

I was hoping President Duterte would ask his friend, Chinese President Xi Jinping, to accept responsibility. But I was disappointed by what our President said.

* * *

President Duterte has vowed that in the next three years, we will see an intensified war against illegal drugs and corruption.

On illegal drugs, I hope he realizes that he’s going about the problem the wrong way. It’s a health issue, first and foremost, so his peace-and-order approach keeps missing the mark. According to some reports, in the National Capital Region alone there are three million to four-million drug users. If they are not rehabilitated, they soon become pushers.

The drug menace will not be eliminated so long as there is demand. This is why international syndicates continue to smuggle drugs—shabu for the poor and party drugs for the rich—into our country. Knowing how corrupt the Bureau of Customs is and how porous our borders are, it is no wonder that the Philippines has become a transshipment point for drugs.

Meanwhile, on government corruption, while I admit the President has managed to reduce it a bit, corruption remains embedded in the government system. 

It gets worse when the President makes the corruption war selective—like promoting to Cabinet rank a Customs officer found incompetent or negligent. The President seems to think that military cadets and generals are honest and disciplined. Does he forget that during the Magsaysay administration, President Magsaysay had 300 cadets from the Philippine Military Academy assigned to the bureau, supposedly to help curb corruption? But soon, the PMA cadets themselves were corrupted. That is precisely the nature of the system—it swallows people, even those meaning to do good.

The Commission on Audit found, for instance, that lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor General and SolGen Jose Calida himself were getting excessive allowances in violation of the law. Under the law, they are only entitled to allowances of up to 50 percent of their salaries.

And, by the way, what happened to that conflict of interest case involving Calida, who was found to have a security agency with contracts with various government agencies?

Another whiff of corruption was the case of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. The Counsel accused five lawyers of getting excessive allowances which he considered bribes from government-owned-and -controlled corporations. The irony of it all was that the Counsel himself was the one who was relieved, not the lawyers whom he accused of getting bribes,

No wonder there is hardly a dent. There is one rule for friends and appointees, and another one for the rest.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Filipino fishing boat , Chinese vessel , Recto Bank , President Rodrigo Duterte
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