"His behavior today is markedly different from his behavior when he was DFA secretary."
Former Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is currently drumming up public animosity against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte over the way the latter is handling the ongoing maritime dispute between the Philippines and Red China regarding the South China Sea.
Red China has built artificial islands and sent warships to islets and shoals inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the disputed area.
President Duterte believes that it is impossible to get those islets and shoals back, outside of winning a shooting war against the communist giant.
That reality notwithstanding, President Duterte sent word to the Chinese embassy in the Philippines that those islets and shoals belong to the Philippines. The DFA has also repeatedly sent diplomatic protests to Beijing regarding the matter.
Last Monday, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. publicly badmouthed Red China over its maritime bullying and pretentious claim to be a friend of the Philippines. Frankly speaking, Red China deserves Locsin’s profane language.
Del Rosario, however, wants President Duterte to confront Red China. From the way he criticizes the President, del Rosario wants the Philippines to go to war against Red China, on the expectation that the United States will support the Philippines in that shooting war.
It’s easy for del Rosario to want war. He is too old to fight at the battlefront, and he won’t have the duties and responsibilities of a commander-in-chief.
Going to war with a powerful adversary is difficult enough; going to war while there is a pandemic is suicidal. There is no doubt that the war del Rosario and his friend, ex-Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, want will create more problems for the Philippines.
What do del Rosario and Carpio know about war anyway? Each of them behaves like a backseat driver who does not know how to drive a vehicle but nags the driver on how to drive one.
Del Rosario and Carpio will probably flee to the United States in the event a shooting war between the Philippines and Red China does take place. They both have many American corporate clients to take care of them abroad.
There is no doubt that Red China is exploiting the vulnerability of the Philippines, but then, what can the Philippines realistically do about that as of now?
Anyway, del Rosario’s behavior today is markedly different from his behavior when he was the DFA Secretary of President Benigno Aquino III.
I know that for a fact.
In March 2013, Filipino commandos loyal to the Sultan of Sulu went to Sabah (East Borneo) to forcibly reclaim that territory which by historic right and legal title belongs to the Philippines.
Because President Aquino refused to help his own countrymen, the commandos were overwhelmed by Malaysian soldiers. The commandos who were captured were detained in Malaysia. Those who escaped and returned to the Philippines faced criminal charges as ordered by Aquino.
After that incident, Filipinos residing in Sabah, long maltreated by the Malaysian government, were subjected to a new round of abuses by the semi-uncivilized Malaysians.
All the foregoing notwithstanding, Aquino and del Rosario still acted apologetically to Malaysia.
Del Rosario insisted that the solution to the Sabah problem was diplomacy and dialogue, and not armed conflict. Although del Rosario’s boss, President Aquino, promised to pursue the Sabah claim before the International Court of Justice, nothing concrete happened thereafter. Eventually, del Rosario did not act on that promise.
I was outraged by the way del Rosario handled the issue. That was why on April 4, 2013, I filed a petition for mandamus in the Supreme Court (G.R. No. 206323) to compel then DFA Secretary del Rosario to pursue the Philippine claim to Sabah before the International Court of Justice or such other forum available under International Law.
The petition cited the Administrative Code of 1987 which states that the DFA Secretary has the duty to implement foreign policy, and foreign policy includes protecting the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.
For me, del Rosario’s silence on the petition indicated his refusal to defend Philippine territory, in this case, Sabah, against the Malaysian landgrabber.
The SC dismissed my petition on the ground that foreign policy is the exclusive concern of the executive department of the government. Carpio was a justice of the SC when the petition was dismissed.
Today, eight years later, del Rosario is singing an entirely different tune. He wants President Duterte to do precisely what he refused to do when he was the DFA Secretary. That’s duplicity on the part of del Rosario.
It also shows that del Rosario has no moral authority to criticize President Duterte for the way the latter is handling the maritime dispute between the Philippines and Red China.