So-called political analyst Richard Heydarian drew a lot of criticism recently after publishing an article titled Duterte’s independent foreign policy that contained nothing but blank space. He was trying to prove that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is doing nothing to address the issues with China over disputed islands especially after the collision incident involving a Chinese vessel and a Filipino fishing boat at the Reed Bank near Palawan Islands.
Some pointed out that his stunt wasn’t even original because retired columnist Conrado de Quiros already published a similar piece during his heyday. For someone who brags about having written so many books on foreign policy and being invited as a speaker in other countries, it is evident that Heydarian is having difficulty getting a grasp of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy particularly on China.
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Yes, just because Heydarian cannot understand or doesn’t agree with how Duterte treats China doesn’t mean Duterte doesn’t have a foreign policy. Heydarian basically outed himself as a lowbrow pedestrian “intellectual” who is trying to elevate himself to the likes of the bigwigs he loves quoting in his articles. A lot of people have noticed that he fills his articles with quotes from famous people – it’s either to prove to everyone that he is well-read or to brag that he rubs elbows with VIPs. Either way, he just comes across as pretentious. Furthermore, it is also proof that without the quotes from other people, his articles are empty. So basically, it really is not the first time he published an empty article.
Heydarian is not ashamed to show his true colors. He has always been partial to the yellows. He is not an objective columnist. He was very soft on former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III even though it was during the latter’s term when China initiated the building of infrastructure over the Spratly Islands, which essentially means the Philippines lost its claim over the disputed islands during BS Aquino’s term in office. But now Heydarian and other yellow supporters are blaming Duterte for not doing anything to assert claim over them.
Heydarian has not proposed any alternative solution to the problem. He just calls Duterte names or resorts to ad hominem attacks. It is quite ironic considering Duterte is using a pragmatic approach in dealing with China. It’s quite obvious that the Opposition’s only solution is to ask the Americans to help deal with the problem. They blame Duterte for the lack of support or the United States’ inaction against China’s so-called incursion of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Heydarian and the rest of the Opposition criticizing Duterte are forgetting that the President doesn’t want to rely on the U.S. for help using the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US that was signed in 1951. That’s not even enforceable without the approval of US Congress.
From his Day One in office, Duterte has already emphasized that the Philippines needs to learn to be more independent and to deal with her problems on her own. Besides, Duterte highlighted recently that if the U.S. actually wanted to help, they would have done something about it back when China first broke ground in the disputed islands. He has a point considering the U.S. had satellites to monitor most things that go on in the world especially something major like China’s military buildup.
Members of the Opposition like Heydarian want Duterte to be more aggressive and provocative against China the same way he is towards the West. These people obviously don’t have any foresight. BS Aquino already used that tactic even calling China a bully like Hitler’s Nazi Germany. That only made China even more determined to mark (their) territory.
What some people like Heydarian don’t understand is Duterte takes into consideration the differences in culture and nuances in dealing with Asians versus Westerners. Duterte knows that Asian leaders respond to deference and giving the other party opportunity to save face while Westerners respond to pointed braggadocio. This is why he speaks more to the point when dealing with leaders from the West as opposed to his mild-mannered style when dealing with Asian leaders. This is something some people – even those who brag about their political science degrees and self-proclaimed political “gurus” fail to consider in their analysis. Their only conclusion is that Duterte is kissing China’s ass.
When a Chinese vessel collided with a local Filipino fishing boat, people like Heydarian started to panic and came up with doom and gloom scenarios. They wanted to rile up the public against Duterte by saying he is not doing anything to protect the fishermen. They were outraged when Duterte called the issue a simple maritime incident. While the Chinese crew were wrong to abandon the fishermen, their actions were not sanctioned by the Chinese government. Likewise, Duterte asked the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Filipino fishermen in a speech during his trip to the recent ASEAN summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
Duterte’s critics like Heydarian make it look like it was the President’s fault the fishermen had an encounter with the Chinese. They don’t want the Chinese to fish in the Philippine’s EEZ. But the problem is, the ruling from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) says that Scarborough Shoal and areas like it cannot support human habitation in their natural state and, as such, none are entitled to an exclusive economic zone around them. The ruling did not really give the Philippines the exclusive right to fish there. Neither did it give exclusives rights to the Chinese.
Duterte’s critics would do themselves a favour by revisiting the UNCLOS ruling. They keep saying Duterte is violating the Constitution for allowing the Chinese to fish in the Philippine EEZ. They are wrong. Duterte also assured the public that Filipino fishermen are safe and welcome to go fishing beyond ours. This is something the President guarantees while in office.
Any attempts by the President’s critics to file an impeachment case will fall flat and backfire just like how the lawyers at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) were demolished by the Supreme Court justices recently for filing a case against the government on behalf of the fishermen from Palawan without the knowledge of the fishermen. Their attempts to deceive the public using the poor was exposed and their credibility is now in tatters. No wonder Duterte’s popularity rating is unaffected by their negative propaganda.
The issue with China is a revelation, indeed. There are Filipinos who do not identify with Asian culture. It’s no surprise that our ASEAN neighbours continue to move forward in their own way while the Philippines remain a lame copycat of the West. Perhaps political scientists like Heydarian need to go back to school and study Asian culture and nuance again.
In life, things are not always what they seem.