"Is this the level of discourse that we have descended to?"
For the lack of a better word, this administration has been childish in the way it is handling criticism of its policies regarding Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
In a public address on May 5, President Duterte tore into his harshest foreign policy critics, former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio, with ad hominem attacks.
In his speech, the President wrongly accused Carpio of being involved in the withdrawal of a Philippine ship from Scarborough Shoal that gave China the opportunity to seize the territory in 2012, even though Carpio was still as associate justice at the Supreme Court at the time and would have no reason to be involved in the pullout.
Two days earlier, the President also hurled insults at the former Foreign secretary.
“This Albert, he’s blaming me. If I see you, I’m going to punch you. You’re crazy,” he said in Filipino. “When I assumed power, China’s ships were already there, ours were not!”
The President went on to say that Del Rosario does not even look like a Filipino.
He also commented on Carpio’s weight.
“He’s retired, so he’s a nobody. What did you do? What did you accomplish from being in the Supreme Court?”
When Carpio accepted Mr. Duterte’s challenge to a debate, the President quickly backed down, saying he was taking the advice of his Cabinet.
Even Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., duly chastised by his boss for telling China to “get the **ck out” of Philippine waters, turned his razor wit on Del Rosario and Carpio.
On Thursday, Locsin expressed his support for Duterte’s suggestion that Del Rosario and Carpio be investigated and be held liable for the questionable pullout of a Philippine Navy vessel during the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012.
Carpio, however, said he had nothing to do with the withdrawal, since he was still in the Supreme Court at the time.
Del Rosario, on the other hand, said the pullout was part of a US-brokered deal to ease tensions in the area, but China did not honor its side of the agreement and seized Scarborough Shoal afterward.
But perhaps the most inane remarks came from the President’s shadow, a senator of this land, no less, who has made a career of being photographed with Mr. Duterte.
Responding to criticism of the government’s handling of the West Philippine Sea dispute, Senator Christopher Go said Del Rosario and Carpio should patrol the sea themselves and face the Chinese coast guard.
“If they were the brave ones, they should not have abandoned it.... Now, they’re appearing brave. What can their too much talking do? They should go there,” he said.
Is this the level of discourse that we have descended to? Is that the sound of distant laughter coming from Chinese President Xi Jinping all the way from Beijing?