Roque’s absurd statement on China’s reclaimed islands in the SCS

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

When President Rodrigo Duterte ditched Ernesto Abella for Rep. Harry Roque as presidential spokesperson, it was all thumbs up for me for there couldn’t have been a better choice than one who is more able to defend the president and articulate enough to speak for and in his behalf.

What really made Roque highly favorable for the position is that, like Duterte, he knows his law and they seem to be on the same wave length, despite the fact that both, too, have seemingly different views on human rights issue.

But knowing the law and making public assertions where the law has nothing to do are two entirely different aspects which could affect the sensitivities of people, especially those who are not dumb.

One does not have to be lawyer to understand what is happening in the South China Sea (SCS). Or to put it bluntly, one does not have to be a lawyer to understand what the Chinese are doing in the SCS or the West Philippine Sea (WPS) for that matter.

Thus, for Roque, therefore, to declare in an interview, “Clearly, eventually, those artificial islands will be ours if we can ask China to leave”, is plain ridiculous and absurd and an insult to our intelligence.

Just because the country is “asserting an independent foreign policy”, as Roque affirmed, that “we have ceased to be a lackey of any other state”.  I suppose Roque was referring to the US. So my question is: What are we now to China?

I could not agree more with Sen. Grace Poe who criticized Roque for saying the Philippines will someday thank China for its artificial islands in the WPS (SCS).

Poe said in a statement, “The WPS will freeze over first before China will even begin toying with the idea of giving us back those islands.”

Truth to tell is that we are at China’s mercy. The Chinese are using us more than we are using them. We are waging war against illegal drugs but in reality the drugs coming in are mostly from China, reports say.

Yes, China may be supplying us with arms and helping us build some of our infrastructure projects, but those are all small tokens in exchange for our peaceful, if not passive attitude towards them for their perpetual dominion in the area.

Talking about uncontested hegemony by China!

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Critics chide Duterte for Chinese militarization in the South China Sea

 

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate

For the life of me I don’t know why political foes of President Rodrigo Duterte keep on blaming him for the militarization of the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Perhaps this is the umpteenth time that I have also defended Duterte from this seemingly unreasonable disparagement from the opposing party.

Lately,  Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate condemned, yet again,  the alleged “inaction and deafening silence” of the Duterte’s administration, as new photographs bared continuous militarization in seven reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago. He described it as a “see-no-evil; speak-no-evil; hear-no-evil” attitude and as a “this blatant violation of our sovereignty.”

In the same vein, an opposition party politician, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, said Duterte should not “stand idly by” as Beijing claims disputed islands and completes the militarization of territory.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

Pangilinan even sounded melodramatic when he made the following statements: “What makes a country? Aside from the recognition of its neighbors, a country is defined by its territory and the people in that territory, and its ability to defend its territory and people. Thus, it is the government’s sacred core duty to protect its territory on behalf of its people.”

“That’s why we are deeply troubled that instead of expressing outrage, Malacañang displayed a nonchalant attitude in playing down China’s militarization of the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.”

Again, I am asking both Zarate and Pangilinan, and the others who have the politician’s trend of thought, this: what can a third world country like ours do when a giant, militarily powerful and economically super-strong country like China, disregards the existence of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty – the international agreement that defined the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources, then claims practically the whole of the SCS on the pretext of historical basis and starts reclaiming coral reefs/atolls and other rock protrusion they see and then converting them into garrisons and airfields?

Like I said, the Chinese territory is now in our backyard already and while The Hague ruled in the Philippines’ favor in 2016, when we challenged China’s reclamation of the Spratly Islands in 2013, still China continued with impunity its controversial buildup in the area.

In all of these, was the U.S., the greatest nation on earth, able to deter China from militarizing the SCS? Where is the U.S. in all of these then, especially knowing the decision of the international tribunal at The Hague?

Nowhere, really, because the U.S. main concern is that the freedom of navigation in the area remains unhampered.

So if China was able to show its will, determination and muscle to develop the SCS despite the knowledge of the greatest military power on earth, who are we to stand up against China?

All I am saying here, therefore, is that, like Zarate and Pangilinan, and whoever else that wants to criticize Duterte for his “deafening silence” on the Chinese militarization of the SCS, they should vent their disappointment, nay their ire, at the U.S.

Making enemies of the Chinese who are occupying a mammoth airbase at our backyard with big guns pointing at us is simply a big folly.

Duterte’s illogical advice to Suu Kyi

 

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Asean-India Summit 2018.

I had been always a big supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte in his actions, and even in his words, as the leader of the Filipino nation.

In fact in the numerous pieces I wrote about him you have read me defending him from criticisms hurled against him here and abroad.

Although many of Duterte’s comments are considered to be tongue in cheek, as it is his nature when making ad-lib speeches, this time, however, I cannot just let it pass without commenting about its importance or significance.

I am referring to the remarks Duterte made to Myanmar (formerly Burma) leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his speech at the recent Asean-India Summit 2018, saying, that the latter should not bother about human rights activists as they are “just a noisy bunch”.

Note that Suu Kyi is facing international criticism for failing to address the plight of more than 600,000 members of the largely-Muslim Rohingya ethnic group who have fled to Bangladesh, after Myanmar’s military launched a campaign ostensibly aimed at eradicating Rohingya armed groups.

Those who have fled describe a campaign of killing, rape, and destruction, accounts that have been backed by human rights groups and journalists working in the region.

Suu Kyi has yet to recognize that atrocities are taking place and has not spoken out against the Burmese military.

In fact I have written about Suu Kyi and the sufferings of the Rohingyas which can be read at the following links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not/; https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not-part-ii/; https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/plight-of-the-rohingyas/

Many people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations described Myanmar’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing, which Myanmar denies.

“I pity her because she seems to be caught in the middle of being a Nobel Prize winner for peace and this is now the ruckus, she is heavily criticized,” Duterte said in his speech.

Suu Kyi’s case is very much unlike Duterte’s when the latter was also criticized for human right abuses and alleged extrajudicial killings during his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

Suu Kyi is not only a Nobel Prize winner for peace, but also Myanmar’s leader, and to be silent and insensitive to the plight of the Rohingyas living in her country speaks badly of her reputation.

What I am just saying is that Duterte should not have compared the fate of the more than half a million Rohingyas whose desire is simply to improve their lot with the criticism he got for killing drug personalities who are bent on destroying other people’s lives with impunity through the use of illegal drugs.

There is simply no logical comparison between one leader’s silence that caused adversity to hundreds of thousands of people and another leader’s strong political will to get rid of the scourge afflicting the country and its people and in the process killing thousands.

The human rights activists may have been “just a noisy bunch” to Duterte, but definitely where Suu Kyi is concern she deserves condemnation not just of the “noisy bunch”, but of freedom-loving leaders as well, including Duterte.

Thus, I consider Duterte’s advice to Suu Kyi not to mind human rights activists as illogical.

 

“America” instead of “Landscape With Snow”

 

“America”

You might be thinking what this is that I am writing about. Well, a little perspective will probably help.

Both “America” and “Landscape With Snow” are works of art by different artists kept at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Often referred to as The Guggenheim, it is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of impressionist, post-impressionist, early modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year.

The Guggenheim, as well as other art museums, is the customary place where the White House (WH) occupants borrow major works of art during their time office to adorn the Oval Office, their private living quarters and the other rooms.

The Smithsonian museum for instance loaned the Kennedys a Eugène Delacroix painting, “The Smoker”. The Obamas preferred abstract art, choosing works by Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns.

“Landscape With Snow”

President Donald Trump’s WH, however, is said to have requested from the Guggenheim’s chief curator Van Gogh’s “Landscape With Snow” painting depicting a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog, to be placed inside the couple’s room.

Nancy Spector, the chief curator, reportedly denied the request, in her email to the WH, saying, the 19th century painting was “prohibited from travel except for the rarest of occasions”. She further explained that the painting was on its way to be exhibited at the Guggenheim’s museum in Bilbao, Spain, and then would return to New York “for the foreseeable future.”

Spector instead offered an alternative that is “America”, an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet which is a creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan. She even enclosed a photo of it – for their reference.

Cattelan’s “America” caused something of a sensation after the Guggenheim unveiled it in 2016, drawing more than a few headlines of amazement and amusement.

For a year, Cattelan’s gleaming gold toilet was on display at the Guggenheim restroom for the private use of members of the public with a guard posted outside and where a crew would arrive every 15 minutes or so with specially chosen wipes to clean the gold.

Now that the exhibition was over, the artist would “like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan”, Spector said in her email.

Asked to explain the meaning of the installation and why he offered it to the Trumps, 57-year-old Cattelan answered: “What’s the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense.”

Spector called the toilet “a cipher for the excesses of affluence” and said more than 100,000 people had queued “for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature”.

Though crafted from millions of dollars’ worth of gold, the sculpture is actually a great leveler. As Cattelan has said, “Whatever you eat, a US$200 lunch or a US$2 hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise.”

But there is no doubt that the offer for “America” to be installed at Trump’s WH is a dig at Trump himself, given the latter’s well-documented history of installing gold-plated fixtures in his residences, his properties and even his airplane.

 

Robredo’s bleak picture of the country

Vice President Leni Robredo

I had high hopes when Leni Robredo won the vice presidency in 2016 against her closest rival, the dictator’s namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Had even higher expectations when Robredo, despite her being an opposition, was given a Cabinet portfolio in the early part of the Duterte administration.

Was thinking that she would be an exemplary model of a non-traditional politician, following her late husband’s political approach, who could work with an unconventional politician like President Rodrigo Duterte.

Alas, Robredo valued to lead an opposition party, the Liberal Party (LP), and be among a group of traditional politicians – trapos – who had nothing to show and crow about during the preceding Aquino administration except to take care of their own personal and political interests.

What is becoming worse with Robredo is that she is falsely lamenting and maliciously depicting a bleak picture of the country when, during the 72nd anniversary of the LP, she exhorted her dwindling party mates “to remain true to what is right and not lose heart in the face of the “darkness” shrouding the nation.” She was being melodramatic in her black dress.

“Many ask us if there is still hope, where we are headed. Darkness envelops us. But we should not lose hope. Our party history is about fighting,” Robredo said.

I mean what darkness is she talking about and fighting for what?

At least Duterte is keeping true to his promise during the campaign that he will be fighting for the country and its people by going relentless against drugs, corruption and criminality, which were found later to be prevalent during Aquino’s LP administration but nothing forceful was done to curve the plagues.

Thus, I could not agree more with Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque’s statement that Robredo’s remarks were “completely out of touch with the existing realities on the ground.”

“The darkness that Vice President Robredo may be referring to perhaps pertains to the future of those discredited politicians who wish to return to power,” Roque added. It cannot be more nearer to the truth than this.

And it is precisely for this reason that Filipinos, in every poll survey now and then, have always given Duterte high marks in satisfaction, approval and trust ratings because they no longer want the deplorable ways of the traditional politicians that Robredo sadly has embraced, to make a comeback only to forsake the respect and meaningful changes we are gaining now as people and as a country.

 

Cayetano eyeing to succeed Duterte in 2022

 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sporting a new haircut.

Perhaps one may find this absurd that I am talking already about a presidential run in 2022 this early on.

But if one has been monitoring closely political personalities and events surrounding their association with President Rodrigo Duterte, before and after his election in 2016, the one that would stand out most is Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cayetano’s ambition and political astuteness was proven when he positioned himself as vice presidential candidate in 2016 election.

It is still vivid in the minds of the people that he went to Davao City and declared his candidacy there hoping and praying that he could have Duterte as his presidential tandem.

“When I announced my candidacy in Davao, I took a step of faith. I told myself that a good partner is really worth waiting for,” Cayetano said then.

At the time many were already clamoring for Duterte to run for president but he remained unsure, if not coy, about the offer.

But Cayetano never lost hope as he continued convincing the people that Duterte’s kind of leadership is what the country needed in creating genuine change in the lives of Filipino families.

What gave Cayetano the impetus to continue campaigning for the Duterte-Cayetano ticket is the fact that while Duterte repeatedly said that he would not run as president he also intimated that if he does change his mind and decides to run for President, that he would pick Cayetano to be his running mate.

At the time Duterte was already impressed with Cayetano’s “good grasp of practical solutions” for the country’s problems on poverty, poor infrastructure, and lack of inclusive economic growth.

Thus, who can forget the time when, even as Duterte was still uncommitted, Cayetano had already prepared posters of their tandem which he himself was seen nailing on roadway posts for people to see.

But that was the past and here we are faced with more recent events, and the reason why am saying that Cayetano is eyeing to succeed Duterte in 2022.

It was reported that during the January 18th launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank, Duterte addressed Cayetano as “Mr. President”.

“Of course our Foreign Secretary is here. ‘Mr. President, can you stand up? Show them your new haircut.’” Duterte said in his introduction of Cayetano.

Duterte praised Cayetano not only for his performance, but also for being the most qualified, I suppose for the presidency in 2022.

If this is not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Still better than endorsing Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who Duterte said was also going to be the next president during the former’s birthday some time ago, God forbids.

 

Trump’s ‘shithole’ language

US President Donald Trump

Just to refresh you, the word ‘shithole’, made more infamous by no less than US President Donald Trump, came about during bipartisan talks about immigration reform when he said:  “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

By shithole countries Trump was alluding to Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and apparently most of Africa.

There is no need to ask what a shithole is. We all know it is a hole where one defecates. And so it is how dirty and how vulgar the word is.

I would not have minded if an ordinary person uses it casually. But, when a person of Trump’s stature uses it in making policy statements, man, it is not only preposterous, but simply revolting and condemnable!

What can be more revolting and condemnable than to suggest later on that America should take more people from “countries like Norway.” This is his remark about African countries and Haiti in reverse, explicitly singling out predominantly white nations as favorable.

Thus, when a nation is characterized as a ‘shithole’, it obscenely implies also that its people are filthy, disgusting and contemptible, and therefore, dysfunctional.

Even if Filipinos are not included in the irresponsible and bigoted language of Trump, still it should create outrage in their hearts for the way this racist/supremacist leader has been harshly treating immigrants of which Filipinos number in the millions. And let us not forget that we are still very much a third world country, a shithole in the parlance of this lout of a leader, but what saved us from Trump’s foulmouthed is because the Philippines is useful to the US militarily.

It is simply ironic, as it is inconceivable, that such use of vulgar language can emanate from a country widely known as the bastion of the core values of liberty, self-government, equality, individualism, diversity and unity.

But then Trump is no ordinary American. He is the typical ugly American.

It is said that Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, who is revered the world over for his nonviolent philosophy of passive resistance, taught the world that a country’s greatness is measured not by its richest, but by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Obviously, by this measure, the U.S. is a certified shithole. If Africa and other ‘shitholes’ are unstable in Trump’s estimation, sadly, so is America now under his pathetic leadership.

Former Mexico President Vicente Fox Quesada went even further and appropriately at that, when he tweeted: “.@realDonaldTrump, your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world. With what authority do you proclaim who’s welcome in America and who’s not. America’s greatness is built on diversity, or have you forgotten your immigrant background, Donald?”

Indeed, how true!