POSTSCRIPT / September 4, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Show Gilas, Golan spirit in China row

STEELY SPIRIT: Recent events in such distant fields as the FIBA World Cup in Seville and the standoff with Syrian insurgents in the Golan Heights displayed once again the indomitable spirit of Filipino fighters when put to the test.

This is the same steely spirit that we often wish our national leaders would display and demand of our soldiers in safeguarding sovereign Philippine territory threatened by foreign forces.

Face to face with aggressors and land-grabbers, Filipino warriors – like our Gilas Pilipinas team and our United Nations peacekeepers – will not shrink from duty and love of country.

Our armed forces, despite their being comparatively ill-equipped, are just waiting for the order from the Commander-in-Chief.

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FOCUS ON PANATAG: Case in point is the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal that the Chinese grabbed in 2012 after shooing away Filipinos from what through generations have been their traditional fishing grounds.

President Aquino told the fishermen and government vessels watching over them to abandon the area on the lame excuse that stormy weather might overtake them there. (But the Chinese stayed, presumably rolling on the deck of their boats laughing.)

Just like that, we surrendered Panatag without a whimper, or a token display of resistance. Instead, Malacañang sent somebody to run to an arbitration tribunal at The Hague to make sumbong because that was supposed to be the correct way of defending our sovereign rights.

Our armed forces, even the poor fishermen whose only livelihood was threatened, would have resisted if ordered.

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OPPORTUNITY LOST: Why are we making a case out of Panatag? Because it was a golden opportunity to make a crucial point before a watching world, and we goofed it.

China refused to stand up and face us at The Hague, consigning our voluminous protest to limbo.

But in Panatag, Beijing had no choice except to face the consequences of its aggressive act. It arrogantly encroached on our backyard with its yellow neck sticking out, giving us a chance to try chopping it.

In such a crisis, we wish the Filipino fighter’s courage evinced in Seville and the Golan carried the day. And to think that we were in our home grounds in Panatag.

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SAMPLE STAND: We cannot tangle with the mighty Chinese dragon all over the South China Sea and the fringes of our Exclusive Economic Zone. But we can choose to make a stand at Panatag.

We cannot spread out our limited forces to fight the Chinese interlopers in Ayungin Shoal, the Recto Bank, the Panganiban, Burgos, McKennan, Calderon, Malvar, and Mabini Reefs, et cetera.

We cannot maintain combat-ready contingents to secure our lonely barangays in some of the Spratly islands where school children still raise the Philippine flag and sing, with right hand pressed to the breast, the national anthem every Monday morning.

We cannot fight all and possibly lose all. But we certainly can focus for optimum effect and make a stand at Panatag, just 120 miles off the Zambales coast and thousands of miles from the nearest Chinese land mass.

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U.S. PRESSURE?: We cannot fully comprehend why our President surrendered Panatag, probably losing forever that integral part of the Philippine archipelago. (Don’t look now, but he is poised again to also lose, or give away?, another part of Muslim Mindanao).

Since we are not privy to the President’s thinking nor do we have access to confidential state papers, logic forces us to suspect that Malacañang is under pressure from the White House.

The United States is doing everything to make sure the Philippines, which it treats as a client state, does not trigger a shooting war with China and suck the US into the fray.

Despite the 1951 Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty whose anniversary we marked last Aug. 30, the US is neither prepared nor willing to run to the succor of the Philippines in an armed confrontation with its northern neighbor.

The White House has been drilling into the head of President Aquino, with remarkable success, not to cross swords with China but to try the more pacific ways of diplomacy and bureaucracy in resolving territorial disputes.

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RTV POLL ADS: There is some confusion on the effects of the Supreme Court’s striking down that part of a Commission on Elections resolution limiting the airtime that candidates may buy from radio-TV stations and requiring candidates to get Comelec permission before guesting on broadcast shows.

In a unanimous decision, the tribunal said the expense restrictions were arbitrary and in violation of press freedom. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body would not appeal the ruling.

Candidates for national office can now again place 120 minutes of airtime per TV station and 180 minutes per radio station during the campaign, instead of just 120 minutes for all TV stations and 180 for all radio stations.

But by reverting to the old ceilings, is not the SC in effect setting limits – an act that is in itself arbitrary and in violation of press freedom?

In another angle, election lawyer Romy Macalintal said that the SC decision applies only to the 2013 polls and not to the coming 2016 elections unless so adopted by the Comelec in a new resolution.

He said: “What was declared unconstitutional was the resolution limiting ad expenses and not RA 2006 itself which was the basis of the resolution.”

He added that the decision had nothing to do with the case of former Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito who had to step down after being found to have overspent in the last campaign.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 4, 2014)

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