It’s all so interesting to note. One moment, Filipinos would giddily cheer the successful resupply of Philippine military personnel camped in the derelict BRP Sierra Madre which was purposely run aground in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to seal the Philippines’ territorial claim there. Then on another, they’d give each other high-fives over what is essentially a handover of the fate of the Philippines’ claim to Sabah to what may go on to become the Malaysian puppet state of Bangsamoro.
Inconsistent thinking on a national scale at first glance. But, really, for those who know Filipinos all too well, this is classic Filipino Loser Mentality at work.
The Ayungin spectacle resonated well amongst Filipinos because it was a classic David-and-Goliath standoff with the preferred Batang Yagit ending. In this scenario, the Philippine camp did what Filipinos do best — nakalusot while using inferior resources. The heroes of this story used what will probably be claimed as that uniquely-Filipino “ingenuity” (that same one that produced that renowned pinnacle of Pinoy technological achievement, the jeepney) to evade the dark might of the Chinese Coast Guard — much like the way Han Solo deftly maneuvered his clunker the Millennium Falcon through a fleet of Imperial Starships blockading the rebel base on the planet Hoth in the movie The Empire Strikes Back.
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This is the same sort of psychological hook that fuelled the EDSA street “revolution” craze that characterised Philippine political “opposition” posturing between 1986 and the mid-2000s. That now-renowned passive-aggressive style with which Filipinos face off with big challengers has become ingrained in the Filipino psyche thanks to the handywork of media conglomerates that, at the time, owed unparalleled loyalty to the Philippines’ Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan.
On the other hand, the Philippine governments’ on-going debacle with regard to its sovereign claim over Sabah involves a challenge that lies outside of Filipinos’ comfort zone. This is made particularly complicated now that the Manila government rather than remain tuwid (straight) in its mandate to protect the national interests has, instead, done a tuwad (assumed the position, if you know what I mean). Malaysia, of course, helped itself to the invitation. The rest is “Mindanao peace” history — or so we are led to believe.
What to do with Sabah lies outside of Filipinos comfy landscape of thinking because the real next steps invovles a square facing of the challenge at hand: take Malaysia to account for its history of deceit and duplicity. Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz, in his latest piece summarises this history…
When the state of Malaya expanded itself to become the present Malaysia, it annexed Sabah unilaterally. But it continued to pay rent to the Sulu sultanate until recently, when the Sabah issue was revived. Which means that Malaysia recognized the Sulu sultanate’s ownership of Sabah.
When the sultanate asked that the rent be increased because of inflation, Malaysia stopped paying altogether. Until that time, Malaysia was still paying the same amount that the British North Borneo Co. paid to the sultanate centuries ago. Thus, the sultanate told Malaysia to leave Sabah. It refused, and still refuses to do so.
When a tenant refuses to pay rent for your property and also refuses to leave, what would you do? You file an ejectment suit in court. For independent nations that court is the International Court of Justice (ICJ). So the Philippine government gave notice that it would file a case in the ICJ.
Unfortunately, unlike in ordinary courts, in the ICJ, both sides must agree to submit themselves to its jurisdiction. If one side refuses to do that, there can be no litigation. And in the Sabah issue, Malaysia refuses to agree to take the case to the ICJ. But it continues to hold on to—and to claim—Sabah.
…and points out what real nationalism is all about:
If this were Europe or the Middle East, nations would have sent troops to forcibly occupy the contested territory, as Russia has recently done in the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, but which Russian troops have recently occupied. A century ago, Hitler did the same thing to Poland, occupied a German-speaking region that was part of Poland. That led to World War II wherein Germany and its Axis allies—Italy and Japan—were defeated by the Allied Forces.
Considering that these external threats to the Philippines’ security and sovereignty aren’t new, it is bizarre that the Philippines, for so long, neglected to build and maintain a strong armed forces. Military spending as a proportion of GDP in the Philippines in 2005 was a measly 0.90 percent, compared to 4.90 for Singapore, 4.50 for Brunei, 3.00 for Indonesia, 2.03 for Malaysia, and 1.80 for Thailand. For a country that prides itself in having the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world as one of its own, it is a pipsqueak where it matters. With millions of able-bodied Filipino men just wiling away their time on street corners drinking beer, the Philippines is a society of people begging for a clear purpose in their lives. Military service and the regimentation of a martial tradition can offer just that.
But no. Filipinos prefer the approach of playing the doleful-eyed underdog waiting for a pat on the head from the big boys.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.