Independence Day is when we commemorate our country’s assertion of freedom and self-determination. We celebrate the fact that we are no longer any other country’s property, puppet or stooge.
Or are we?
No less than the person who speaks for the President makes us doubt this every so often. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque dismissed claims that Filipino fishermen were being bullied by the Chinese in Scarborough Shoal off Zambales.
The shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal, is 124 miles east off Masinloc town, well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
A television report showed the Chinese Coast Guard asking for fish from local fishermen.
Initially, Roque said the video was inconclusive and that he saw no actual instance of bullying. A protest will be duly filed, he said, once bullying is established.
The only thing Roque establishes, however, is his reputation for instinctively siding with the Chinese at practically every issue.
In fact, after ascertaining the truth of the fish-taking, Roque points to the magnanimity and fairness of the Chinese Coast Guard, who he says give noodles, cigarets, and water to the Filipino fishermen.
Water is the most important, Roque says, because fishermen always lack water when they are out at sea
We wonder why we put up with this kind of thinking and speaking from a ranking official in the Palace. And then we remember that Roque speaks for the President and enjoys Cabinet rank, which makes him an alter ego of Mr. Duterte. Suddenly, everything makes sense.
Our President is enamored with the Chinese, not asserting a prior victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and welcomes China’s loans, investments, aid—and other complicated designs. Here he is supported by his foreign affairs secretary, Alan Peter Cayetano, who is not budging an inch, either, to say we are not happy with what the Chinese are doing. And no, the 85 “diplomatic actions” he says his department made do not count. The number sounds too random – and too contrary to evidence.
We now hear that our officials brand the seizing of catch as “unacceptable,” and that they will not take the gesture siting down. Unfortunately, nothing in their past actions give us confidence that they will follow through or that this is not mere lip service.
By all means, let us mark this historic day. Let us hear our officials deliver speeches and unfurl flags. Let us listen to them invoke the fight that our ancestors put up and endured against our series of conquerors.
And then let us all cringe at how all that we are seeing happen between our country and China goes against our very notion of what independence is.