Scarborough standoff: a test of genuine Filipino patriotism

How do Filipinos express their patriotism? The answer to that question varies from one Filipino to another. Some insist that speaking in pure Tagalog, the national language, gives them a sense of nationalism. Some rally behind an American Idol contestant because they say they feel a sense of pride when they see their own kind make it to the finals of an international television show. Indeed, such trivial pursuits occupy Filipino minds in general. In truth, our country’s dire state makes it hard for some of us to feel nationalistic or patriotic.

Our society’s lack of collective success on one hand makes us latch on to any notion that would make us feel proud as a nation but on the other hand also tends to make us suspicious of any outside influence, like the way the idea that speaking in a foreign language is considered by many as unpatriotic or a sign of colonial mentality. Even more bizarrely, a lack of collective success makes some of us root for or cling-on to any Filipino who succeeds abroad. It has come to the point that some of our compatriots will hail even those who did not grow up in the Philippines or have never even been to the Philippines and claim them as one of us when they gain recognition abroad. It’s like having a tinge of “Filipino blood” makes their success a source of that elusive Pinoy pride.

While our country’s weak economy tends to drive Filipinos away to seek better opportunities abroad, our weak military also gives us very little reason to feel safe and proud. After all, not everyone wants to be associated with a laggard or a losing team. Most people would naturally root for the winner or someone who is obviously going to win any fight.

Let’s face it, when it comes to protecting our sovereignty, our chances of succeeding using our existing military forces is slim. But mind you, this hasn’t stopped some overzealous Filipinos from holding protest rallies against China due to the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff. These Filipinos might consider what they are doing a show of Filipino patriotism but they are also risking angering China and giving them a reason to retaliate by withdrawing trade deals. That would be bad for the Philippine economy because China is now the Philippines’ number one trading partner in imports and exports according to Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio. In fact, in response to the indignation rallies, major Chinese travel agencies have already suspended travel tours to the Philippines and they have warned their citizens already in the country to keep a low profile. Let’s just hope that Beijing will not send us a stronger message using their military.

Unfortunately, reports say that President Noynoy Aquino is actually supporting the rallies because he wants international attention to the ongoing dispute. According to PNoy, “it is the Philippines’ best ‘weapon’ against China”. Here’s part of what he said:

“They have relations with other nations around the world which would make other nations think, if we are being treated this way… there might come a time when they would also be treated the same way.”

PNoy’s decision has unsurprisingly divided the sentiments of Filipinos again. Most rational thinking Filipinos know that antagonizing China is not a wise move. Senators like Antonio Trillanes, Loren Legarda, and Manny Villar also think that the standoff should be resolved through diplomatic means.

We cannot make our problem everyone’s problem. We cannot start something that we cannot finish on our own. PNoy may not be thinking straight. He obviously lacks the diplomatic skill to handle such a crisis. Senator Sergio Osmenia even said that the Ambassador to Beijing, Domingo Lee, President Aquino’s family friend is “absolutely not qualified” for the position.

Osmeña said he advised Lee when the latter paid a call on him a month ago to study about China and about diplomacy in preparation for his appearance before the CA.

He said Lee, who failed to answer his questions during the hearing is “absolutely not qualified.”

“He’s not even qualified to become a consul,” said Osmeña.

Osmeña said Lee failed even to enumerate the “three pillars” of Philippine diplomacy which have been in place since the time of Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo. (The “pillars” are national security, economic security and protection of overseas Filipinos.).

Osmeña said he has no doubt of Lee’s loyalty, being a friend of the Aquino family, but said national interest should take precedence over personal friendship.

There is no sign of China backing down on their claim to sovereignity over the islands. According to columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, “China ‘reaffirms its sovereignty over all its archipelagos and islands as listed in article 2 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, which was promulgated on 25 February 1992.’ That law declared as part of China what it called the Zhongsha Islands, which included Huangyan (Panatag to us).”

It seems like PNoy, the only son of “People Power” icon, Cory Aquino is so confident in his hope that street rallies will once again save Filipinos and solve our standoff with China. PNoy does not even bother to consider the possibility that when he encourages anti-China sentiments, resentment towards the Filipino-Chinese community could also grow. There is a risk that the mob can turn against ordinary ethnic Chinese citizens in the country. It’s mind-boggling to consider how our politicians can’t even learn from other countries when it comes to protecting their sovereignty.

[Photo courtesy France24.]

How do most societies protect their sovereignty anyway? If you ask those who have been engaged in military exercises more often than anybody else like the Israelis and the Americans, they will show you their sophisticated military equipment and their military troops’ impressive and deadly combat self-defense maneuvers. Even those who have not been engaged in military conflict for decades feel the need to upgrade or modernize their military capability because they feel safer and prouder as a nation when possessing of a competent military. Sometimes even when they don’t want any conflict, just showing that they have a competent military can help ward off any unprovoked attacks.

In fact, some societies can go to the extreme in their military build-up that international organization such as the United Nations have to step in from time to time just to check and make sure that weapons of mass destructions are not included in their arsenal. That was the case in Iraq more than a decade ago and just look at them now. Whether they had one hidden somewhere or not, a speculation that they had weapons of mass destruction was enough for the US to bomb them close to smithereens.

The United States is the undisputed leader when it comes to wielding military firepower. Undoubtedly, this gives their citizens a sense of pride and security. The Americans are known for patriotism that is unmatched by any other society. This is evident in the way they manage their foreign affairs and export their culture in the form of film and music among others. Yes, the Americans do not need further prodding to show their patriotism.

Yet, Washington is still reportedly concerned about “a rapid military buildup by Beijing, even though it still spends about six times as much on defense as China.” Such is the American’s foresight. You have to admire their ability to prepare for and prevent potential national security risks.

You can’t blame them though. China has become very aggressive in recent years. It is obvious that they are not satisfied with being at the number two spot economically. Because of this, US lawmakers still want a bill passed that would increase their military budget even further.

Meanwhile, the Philippine military has no capability to wage war. The law, which was supposed to ensure military modernization is said to have failed due to corruption even within the military. It goes to show that even our own military is not patriotic enough. What more ordinary Filipino citizens.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.