POSTSCRIPT / August 25, 2020 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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DFA-DND tandem hits China’s antics

WHILE President Duterte was in “perpetual isolation” in Davao, his foreign affairs and national defense secretaries in Manila took turns lambasting China’s preposterous claims related to its squatting on Philippine territory.

The outbursts of Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana protesting the antics of China illegally occupying choice spots in Philippine maritime areas were a refreshing break from the hitherto timid stance of the Duterte administration.

Pardon our saying it, but we think President Duterte should consider staying quarantined longer with a “No visitors/No viruses allowed” sign on the door – except to appear briefly for his weekly Monday Night Live televised show.

People are wondering if Locsin and Lorenzana were acting on their own or with prior clearance from the boss. If everything had been cleared at the top, what is Duterte up to?

On Aug. 20, Locsin fired off a protest, again over the Chinese Coast Guard’s illegal confiscation in May of the catch and gear of Filipinos fishing at Scarborough (Panatag) shoal off Zambales, and its sending radio challenges to Philippine ships and aircraft passing Philippine areas occupied by China.

(Earlier protests had been filed by Locsin over similar harassment of Filipinos casting their nets in their traditional fishing grounds, as well as China’s shooing away Philippine aircraft on legitimate regular patrols in the West Philippine Sea.)

Beijing reacted quickly, accusing the Philippines of infringing on China’s security and sovereignty by its sending military aircraft to patrol waters in the South China Sea enclosed in the nine-dash line it has unilaterally drawn to delineate its claimed area.

“China urges the Philippines to immediately stop illegal provocative activities,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Li Jian said in a statement.

On Sunday, Aug. 23, Defense Secretary Lorenzana lashed back, saying it was China doing the provocation, especially since the area that Beijing claims is legally within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by international law.

“That area is within our EEZ,” he said. “The Chinese have no right to claim they are enforcing their laws since they are illegally occupying the country’s EEZ. Their so-called historical rights do not exist except in their imagination.”

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio who has researched on the subject and argued on it before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague said: “Scarborough shoal is Philippine territory under the official Spanish 1734 Velarde-Bagay-Suarez map, under the official American 1899 Jose Algue map, and under the Philippine Baselines Law.”

The shoal is just 240 kilometers from Zambales but 960 kms from Hainan island, the nearest Chinese landmass. China seized it in 2012 and has been driving away or harassing Filipinos going there to fish or seek shelter in the lagoon inside it in bad weather.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared as invalid China’s nine-dash line claim over a vast area of the SCS. The PCA award was based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

But Beijing refused to recognize PCA’s jurisdiction and its subsequent award despite the fact that China and the Philippines, together with 165 other states, have ratified the landmark convention.

The award did not say which country owned Scarborough, because the petitioner (Philippines) did not raise that issue since the PCA was not the proper body to rule on that point. The award said the shoal must be open to those traditionally fishing there, who include Filipinos, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

President Duterte has avoided raising the PCA ruling in his meetings with China President Xi Jinping. Back home, he explains that he once mentioned it but that Xi hinted at warlike repercussions if he invoked it again.

Besides, Duterte has been waiting for the massive loans, aid and investments promised by Xi to help him make life more comfortable for Filipinos. Added recently to those mostly unkept promises was an anti-COVID vaccine supposed to be available to Filipinos before December.

Will Duterte rein in Locsin and Lorenzana before others join them in railing against China on a misimpression that the wind has started to change direction? Abangan!

• RevGov one of Du30 end-game options

THE TIME has come for the Duterte forces to spring one of the end-game options of the would-be strongman to stay in power beyond the 2022 end of his six-year term.

Duterte never kept secret the possibility of staying beyond his term. Now and then he would talk about it, presumably to condition the public mind to the need for it and his wanting to reform society for the people’s own good.

In 2016, the people were just so tired of crime and corruption that they could accept a mailed-fist regime for a cleanup. Talking tough, showing a populist drift, and promising to purge government and society in six months, Duterte won the vote.

He needs continually a bogeyman to keep the people scared of something evil for him to slay for them. He started with the illegal drug problem which he inflated to such hideous proportions that many people apparently resigned to brutal methods being used to combat it.

But when 2020 rolled in, something unexpected dropped from nowhere — the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) which soon grew into a pandemic. To make matters worse, as the scourge surged, Duterte’s own morbidity started getting worrisome.

While it is now time to launch the drive for the planned Revolutionary Government, which is actually a ruse to scrap the Constitution binding Duterte to a term that ends in 2022, the big question is: Will the people — plus the pandemic and his state of health — allow his overstaying?

If the RevGov plan is abandoned, what are the alternative moves for maneuvering Duterte’s staying beyond 2022, assuming the people are not carried away by the Season of Discontent that seems to be in the air?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 25, 2020)

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