More connected than we think
The Ukrainians are fighting and resisting a little too hard, frustrating Russian President Vladimir Putin who did not expect such spirited defiance. Financial and economic sanctions against Putin, his cabal of crony oligarchs, and Russia itself by NATO nations and the United States have kicked in.
With many lives and property already lost on Ukrainian and Russian sides, the inertia of war mobilization looks like Pandora’s box that could spill over beyond Ukrainian borders. Putin, now chastised at home and abroad, has threatened like a petulant child to get Russian nuclear weapons a notch in readiness.
The more alarming features of this saga are the signals that Putin has become detached from reality and rationality. He is justifying his invasion of Ukraine on the pretext that Ukraine has been committing atrocities against Russian-speaking peoples in the Donbas region. He projects Ukraine as the aggressor, calling for its demilitarization and de-Nazification based on his contrived theories. He even now conjures a Ukraine armed with nuclear weapons poised to strike at Russia.
At the onset, the Philippine view of the Ukraine situation was disappointing. The Secretary of Defense said the Philippines was far away and had nothing to do with the conflict in Europe.
This is not surprising, considering how President Duterte has previously predisposed the Filipino public against the US and in favor of Russia and China. An international survey by Pew Research in 2020 placed the Filipinos as most admiring of Putin (61 percent), only behind Bulgaria (62 percent) among the nations in the survey. As to Russia, Filipinos came in fourth most positive, after Greeks, Slovaks, and Bulgarians.
The idea that the Philippines does not care about world affairs is only as recent as the Duterte regime. The sense of self-entitlement, self-centeredness, and selfishness of the Filipino state under Mr. Duterte is embarrassing. It seeks benefits from and security in alliances with the US and banking on the protection offered by international arbitration and judicial institutions but never substantially contributing to the spirit and work of this alliance and the strengthening of the international institutions.
Thankfully, the Philippines has come out condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine via the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The Secretary of Justice has also announced that the Philippines welcomes refugees from Ukraine. Six of the 10 presidential candidates have publicly taken a stand in support of Ukraine. This is the Philippines taking its rightful place among the nations of the world.
When the UN was established in 1945, there were three founding members that were not even independent states. These were the Philippines, Ukraine, and Byelorussia. The Philippines was sponsored by the US, while Ukraine and Byelorussia were sponsored by the Soviet Union. Of course, in the Cold War that emerged after World War II, these three countries were clearly regarded as client-states of the two superpowers.
The Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986, the first massively televised popular uprising, inspired subsequent stirrings against despots. Ukraine is part of the chain of deliverance from autocracy that happened in the Philippines in 1986, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The wrong leaders have a way of leading and keeping their people on the wrong side of history. Putin is a disservice to the Russian people as he is to the world. The Russians will be despised because they have allowed an anachronistic, egoistic, and mentally frayed leader to clamber to the top of their political structure and use it to break the peace and subvert the international system.
Filipinos are on the threshold of a similar mistake. In the same manner that Putin fed his country lies, myths, and illusions that he himself has become a victim of, the Philippines is similarly propelled by a powerful delusion. At the moment, so much feverish hope of the electorate hinges on a record of world-class kleptocracy complexed with an irrefutable nothingness and a history of willful absence.
We may yet catch ourselves in time. A true leader awaits us. We only say the right word, and our redemption begins.
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