What explains Duterte’s behavior toward China?

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 10,2021 - 08:18 AM

It’s hard to imagine how any Filipino can be supportive of President Duterte’s submissive, fawning behavior toward China notwithstanding the latter’s belligerent claim over a huge area of our marine-rich waters.

No matter how disillusioned we may have grown with our country, when our poor fishermen are shooed away from earning their living in our very own seas, it’s natural that our sense of nationalism will impel us to be outraged at the bully of Asia. No matter how disheartened we may have become with our past leaders and supportive of the current one, when our navy personnel are harassed by a country which lost in an international tribunal that decided our conflicting sea claims, it’s instinctive that our spirit of patriotism will drive us to be enraged at the foreign aggressor.

At least two of the Duterte administration’s key Cabinet members have expressed the collective anger of our people against China because of the latter’s rogue behavior inside our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), over which international law bestows us sovereign rights. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana slammed China’s “appalling” disregard for international law. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was more blunt when he cursed China to “Get the f–k out!” of the West Philippine Sea.

A total of 12 senators have condemned China for its illegal activities inside our EEZ. Eleven senators signed a resolution condemning in the “strongest possible terms” China’s illegal activities in our EEZ. Sen. Manny Pacquiao made it 12 when he wrote a separate letter demanding that China “withdraw (its) vessels from our territory,” and that it “respect our sovereignty.”

It may be an indication of the changing pulse on the ground. I’ve noticed that friends of mine on Facebook who have been rabid Duterte supporters for the past five years are now declaring remorse and expressing indignation against a leader they now view as inexplicably subservient to China’s interest at the expense of sacrificing his own country’s welfare. Even friends and relatives who have been apolitically silent in the past few years are now coming out to vent their aversion to a government they view as docile to China and hostile against its own people.

The behavior of the President on the West Philippine Sea controversy is unnerving. He downplays any belligerent move by China against our country’s interest, and he castigates his own people when they express anger against China. It’s true that there were other presidents in our country’s history who similarly kowtowed to an enemy country. But these past presidents did so under conditions of invasion and occupation by foreign powers, which either tied their hands or drove them to genuflect in order to be allowed to remain in power. This, however, is the first time since we gained independence in 1945 that we are witnessing a president grovel for the benevolence of an unfriendly country.

President Duterte dismisses our country’s victory over China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration with these words: “They filed a case. We won. That paper, in real life, between nations, is nothing. In the language of hoodlums, I will tell you, give it to me and I will tell you: [CURSES]. That’s just paper. I will throw that away in the wastebasket.”

If the President considers our victory as mere worthless trash in the eyes of “hoodlum” China, where then does he anchor his own action or inaction which he calculates will work to advance his country’s interest?

Is the President implying that our country should wait until it can match China’s armed might before we can confront it hoodlum-versus-hoodlum? Or is the President suggesting that since it’s our misfortune to be the mere prey of a hoodlum on the world stage, we can only crawl for mercy before the bully that has grabbed our backyard?

Even the frailest, most destitute resident of our barrio will never beg for pity from one who defiles his or her honor and dignity.

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TAGS: bully of Asia, China, disillusioned, fawning behavior toward China, President Duterte, West philippine Sea

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