ROUGH CUTS| Diplomacy is in the back seat

P-NOY: PH to defy China – one national broadsheet headline.

     Brave words from a President whose ancestors were Chinese who made their huge fortunes in the Philippines.

     But could he not be braver had he embarked on a more strategic diplomacy in trying to whittle down a possibly explosive issue of territorial dispute?

     It can be noted that the broiling claim on certain islands in the West Philippine Sea by countries like ours, China, Vietnam and Malaysia started as early as the time of then President Marcos and lingered on four presidents after to the time of P-Noy’s immediate predecessor, and still up until now. But every time the issue was brought to the fore by any of the claimants, the leaders of the countries involved during those times, as far as we could remember, were able to effectively resolve the issue on the diplomatic table.

     Now, under the second Aquino administration diplomacy is substituted with measures that China, the more aggressive of claimants, is not agreeable. Then we read about the most recent brave statement of the President that to us, is very undiplomatic and could incense China.

     No, we are not saying that the Philippines simply give up its rights over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea. What we are conveying is the thought that it would do the country more good to talk with China on the issue and together lay down on the table the documented basis of each one’s claim and reconcile the same. And if there is no agreement reached, then that should have been the most appropriate time to bring the matter to the international arbitration tribunal for the latter to adjudicate and come up with a resolution on the matter.

     And, should China opt not to honor the decision of the international arbitration body and proceed with its “expansionist activities” in the disputed area, then no one could point a finger to the Philippines as the cause of any armed conflict that may happen.

–ooOoo–

     Last Tuesday (May 26) night we were lucky to witness the live television interview by multi-awarded broadcast journalist Jessica Sojo of GMA Network with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Sojo’s astute style of questioning was able to get some kind of definitive answers from the feisty Davao City mayor.

     But astute a journalist is Jessica Sojo the uncanny shrewdness of Duterte seemed to dominate the air.

Here are some examples we were able to observe in the conversation: Sojo asked the mayor if it was true that he said that one thousand dead in Davao City that had been claimed by the international Human Rights Watch (HRW) to have happened in the mayor’s administration would become 100,000 if he will become President and the bodies of the dead will be dumped in Manila Bay to fatten the fishes, the mayor answered “yes”.

     Early on in the interview Duterte made it clear to Sojo that he is not interested in the presidency, vice presidency, senator or any elective or appointive national positions. But when the broadcaster asked him again if that would mean that he is not running for president or vice president the Davao City executive never said “yes” or “no”. Instead Duterte sort of giving Sojo a run around the bush ending up his long answer with “not interested”.

     Now let us do some in-depth analysis of the mayor’s statements. As a lawyer and former prosecutor Duterte knows that a statement is useless in court if there is no corroborating hard evidence to pin down the accused. Let us remember that the mayor is suspected by the rights groups to be “behind” the extrajudicial execution of known criminals and suspected drug lords and pushers in the city. But beyond hearing of the shadowy Davao Death Squad (DDS) the rights groups including the government’s own Commission on Human Rights (CHR), have nothing concrete about its existence. If the rights organizations turn their eyes on the police Duterte’s ready response is that his order to the police is to ensure that the people in the city and all those who come to visit or do business here are protected at all times. And again he emphasized that what he is admitting is that he said “I will kill them” (the criminals), not that he admits he ordered any group to kill the criminals.

     In other words, the mayor’s admitted statement is something that cannot be used in court to pin him down. After all, admitting saying a thing has an ocean of difference from admitting a criminal deed. In fact, even a sworn admission can be retracted. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima knows this as well.

     And yes, interpreting his “not interested” for any national position statement is far different from a possible interpretation of his “I will if I dream I am” line in his television program “Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa” last Sunday.

     So, people will still remain guessing as to the final decision of the mayor for the 2016 presidential derby until the last day of filing of candidacy in October.

                                                                               -30-

Posted in Opinion