Duterte, Enrile, China and Philippines

Diliman Way

Homobono A. Adaza

“Friends, Romans, countrymen,
Lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.”
-Mark Antony’s oration in Julius
Caesar by William Shakespeare

This is an unlucky and lucky week for me. Unlucky because four of my friends died one after another – one of them is former Senator Eddie Ilarde.

Lucky because I chanced upon an article written by former Secretary of National Defense, Senate President, Secretary of Justice and Customs Chief Johnny Ponce Enrile on the danger to our national security if China controls, directly or indirectly, the Fuga Island group. Considering the impressive resume of Johnny, the article needs serious attention and examination.

Duterte and Enrile: President Rodrigo Duterte and former Senate President Enrile are two of a kind. They are consummate lovers of beautiful and attractive women but devoted to family, especially the children. They are both instrumentalist and expert political surfers. They do not create the waves but they have the expertise of successfully riding the crest of the waves.

They make business decisions, especially in politics. That is why they are successful like most of traditional politicians always propelled by three elemental drives – for power, wealth and sex. And these are powerful drives that propel them to successful careers in politics.

They are both creatures of hate and revenge based on their language and actions as political figures. And resort to violence is not a stranger to both men as a means to resolving problems as public officials.

Duterte has made public admissions on his having been embroiled in scraps that led to death of his opponents, Enrile made no such revelations..
Duterte makes no secret about his resort to killing to solve problems like kill the bishops, the drug users and drug lords.

Enrile is silent and methodical. Duterte in a movie starring Robert Deniro, sounds like Al Capone, while Enrile, in a movie starring Marlon Brando, sounds like Don Corleone. Both of them are perceived to speak the language of violence on the level of action.

These men – President Duterte and former Senate President Enrile – have outstanding similarities they could pass for twins in terms of style and body language. But they seem to differ in their evaluation of whether China imperils our national security and even the survival of the Philippines as an independent country.

How will these men resolve this conflict of evaluation? Will anyone of the two give in to the advice of the other? This is a matter of great interest not only for the good of any of the two men but how will the country be in the next year or so.

Enrile opinion: It is a warning based on facts. Allowing China direct or indirect control of the Fuga Island group is not only prejudicial to our national interest, it is also prejudicial to those who are using the sea lanes in the area like the United States of America. It is a wake up call for President Duterte.

Duterte is Enrile’s friend. So why does not Enrile visit the President in Malacañang and deliver the message to him face to face? The warning is of transcendental importance to our country and our people. Today is timely, tomorrow is too late.

Duterte stance: President Duterte keeps on saying that China is our friend. President Xi Jinping of China is Duterte’s friend but China is not his friend nor is it our country’s friend. Xi Jinping is not China and China is not Xi Jinping. The Communist Party of China (CCP) is China and the CCP is not Duterte’s or our country’s friend.

Friendship is primarily determined by action not by words. Duterte, in his first encounter with Xi Jinping, came home and told this country that Xi told him China will go to war if he insists on the observance and enforcement of the ruling of the UN Arbitral Tribunal which is in favor of the Philippines, smashing in the process China’s claim of the validity of the nine dash line in its claim of territorial ownership. And Duterte believed Xi. Trying to justify the Xi threat, Duterte said we are no match to China in war and he is not willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands Filipinos in such a war, giving the impression that if he does not submit to Xi’s threat, war is inevitable.

The submission of Duterte to Xi’s threat is understandable for two reasons. First, it is almost an accepted aphorism that a small bully submits to a big bully. Xi is the big bully and Duterte is the small bully, thus Duterte’s submission to the big bully.

And second, Duterte is unfamiliar with foreign affairs and foreign relations. He is no Jovito Salonga, Hans Kelsen, Myres McDougal, Henry Kissinger or John F. Kennedy.
Without familiarity with the nuances of foreign affairs and foreign relations as well as the behavior of China when confronted with problem involving the West Philippine Sea, Duterte’s obeisance to Xi Jinping is understandable.

This is so clear in his latest State of the Nation Address (SONA) when he said he is “inutil” in so far as the West Philippine Sea is concerned – meaning, he is helpless, hopeless and there is nothing he can do about the occupation of China of the West Philippine. This is a suicidal admission. This gives us no leverage on the international level where the battle can successfully be fought.

Duterte should learn this lesson from Napoleon Bonaparte – As a leader you should never admit your weakness to anyone, especially to your enemy. And China is our enemy! Even assuming that China is our friend, Duterte should never admit his weakness to a friend. Why? Admitting weakness is to give away everything – your most precious possession. And this is what is happening today, the President is giving away the country chunk by chunk to his friend, Xi Jinping.

This is what the Enrile warning is all about. I hardly agree with Johnny Enrile in many public issues. But this time, I agree with him absolutely because he is right.

China hand: This creeping intrusion into our country by China is abominable – just like the fabled Abominable Snowman or the creature from the black lagoon. The people of this country better wake up before it is too late. The Enrile warning is timely. It should not be ignored. The people should listen and be alert otherwise, before long we will become a province of China. We will become second class citizens. And the Chinese, especially the Communist kind, are not exemplary masters. You don’t have to go to Xinjiang province of China to see the cruel treatment by the CCP of the Uighur Muslims minority.

All you need to do is notice the way the Chinese in this country treat their servants and workers. By no means is China our friend. The Chinese in our country treat us like their inferiors. The think they have every reason to do that since they control the economy of our country – banks, malls, trade of all our products, hardware, airlines, maritime, subdivisions, high rise buildings, etcetera, etcetera. Name it, and they have got it!

They have also been indirectly controlling the politics of this country. It is about time we tell these foreigners that this is our country and they better start behaving properly.

The task of Johnny: Now that Johnny Enrile has hit the nail on the head, he should see President Duterte at the earliest opportunity and tell the President to reverse gear on his policy towards China.

He should tell Duterte that if he does not act now, tomorrow may be too late. He should divest President Duterte of his irrational fear that China would go to war on the issue of the West Philippine Sea. It will not go to war on the bases of several precedents. China did not go to war on the issue of Taiwan which it claims to be its province.

From Mao to Xi and that is a period of more than seventy years, China has done nothing but saber rattling. It did not go to war.

China and Japan have a controversy on the ownership of islands straddling between these two countries for decades now, it did not go to war, it just kept on threatening.

When Chinese forces surreptitiously crept into Indian territory and was repelled by Indian forces, China retreated and did not go to war.

Xi Jinping is the master of political bluff and President Duterte fell for it. What a pity! Or, is Duterte soft on China and Xi because of his repeated public claim that his grandfather is Chinese?

The other matter he should disabuse President Duterte is Dutert’s claim that Xi Jinping assured him he will not allow Duterte to be ousted. But that is a lot of nonsense. Xi cannot do that. He will not go to war for Duterte as he will not go to war for the West Philippine. The only ones who can oust Duterte are the Filipino people, the military or America’s CIA. Or, the forces which Johnny Ponce Enrile must have in mind?

Timing: Probably this is not the proper time to discuss what Johnny Enrile was writing about. But it is an interesting provocation to an intelligent conversation. I just could not let it pass. Anyhow, China, Xi and Duterte are inextricably bound together by the corona virus. At this point in time, Duterte and Enrile are aging, just like me.

Political figures like Duterte and Enrile are normally concerned with their legacy. As of now, it is uncertain for both of them. But a bold resolution to the China problem will work wonders for Duterte and Enrile.

I am certain that if both of them agree on checking the inroads of China into our country, they will both be remembered by our people.

Let’s think of possibilities though. If Duterte rebuffs Enrile’s warning and advice, what will Johnny Enrile do? Will he be just a Cicero – speaking while people are listening? Or, will he be a Demosthenes – speaking and making people march? It is interesting to watch the denouement. HOMOBONO ADAZA

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