Dilemma over China

President Duterte rejects being called a strongman in the latest issue of TIME Magazine. He was put in the company of other world leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary.

According to the author, Ian Bremmer, the strongman is a tough-talking leader. But President Duterte said that he is not a strongman because he would not go after his critics so long as they are Filipinos.

Now, if they are foreigners, that’s a different story.

Coming right down to it, the country with all its problems and challenges does need a strong and decisive leader. Only through this can we achieve change and overcome the ills that we have.

The editorial of Manila Standard last Sunday put it so well—“leaders will ultimately be judged by the wisdom they use to guide their strong decisions and actions, by the fairness and justice they go by in ensuring that the law is observed and applied in equal measure to each citizen, by the honesty with which they conduct themselves and by the humility with which they accept their shortcomings and constructive input from others.

* * *

In the wake of revelations of conflict of interest concerning Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, President Duterte is being challenged to make good on his vow to fire public officials with even just a whiff of corruption about them.

The Commission on Audit found that the media outfit owned by Teo’s brothers received P60 million worth of ad placements from the Department of Tourism. That’s more than a whiff of corruption—that’s graft, my gulay!

Along with Teo, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar should also resign, having made the ad placement possible knowing full well the conflict-of-interest situation.

Teo cannot feign ignorance of the connection between Andanar’s PTV 4 and its blocktimer, her brothers.

I think this will be an acid test of how serious President Duterte is in his fight against corruption.

* * *

Whether the Duterte administration likes it or not, the incursion of China into our Exclusive Economic Zone puts it in a dilemma.

Many sectors are urging Mr. Duterte to strongly protest the landing of Chinese military planes and even the presence of missiles. The country has found itself in a nightmare where there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

That’s why we see Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano unable to do what is expected of him—protest the actions of China is swallowing islands and reefs within our EEZ. That’s why he and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque look so pathetic in trying to extricate themselves from a situation that is the government’s own making.

How will the Philippines now strongly protest Chinese incursion when President Duterte has made no secret of his adoration of Chinese president Xi Jinping?

Even now, the President is saying that those military planes and missiles are not intended for the Philippines. So how could Cayetano protest? Thus, when he says the government will take diplomatic action against China, he lies. He knows he cannot do anything.

Santa Banana, the Philippines cannot even go to the United Nations to protest since China has veto powers. And even if the UN intervenes, will China accept a UN decision? Remember it has ignored the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

What can we do? We cannot go to war because we cannot expect to win. I guess we have to consent passively.

Are the investments and aid from China to the Duterte administration worth the price we are paying for this?

* * *

The recent results of the Bar exams is a reflection of the new lawyers we have and the schools they come from. This year, the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda did not figure at the top.

Passing the Bar is a result of how much one studied—plus luck. When I took the Bar, we would answer the questions in essay form. Now they have a multiple-choice format.

That’s perhaps why top students came from provincial and city law schools.

Then again, a lawyer is not wholly defined by his performance in the Bar exams. It’s how he practices and upholds the law.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Vladimir Putin , Recep Tayyip Erdogan , Viktor Orban , Ian Bremmer , Alan Peter Cayetano , Wanda Tulfo Teo , Commission on Audit
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.