Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 22 June  2019


Reader, I hope you caught what happened in Hong Kong last week, after my column “Why are we so craven?” (title provided by the editor), came out. The Hong Kong people staged another massive demonstration, this time estimated at as many as 2 million strong, or more than a quarter of their population.

Why? Because they did not trust the promises of the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, widely believed to be Beijing’s puppet, and suspected that she would renege on her promises, just as she reneged after they had first demonstrated in 2014 (on electoral reforms).

Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. Lam said she was suspending the legislative work on the extradition to China, but the people want her to withdraw it completely. Not only that. They want her to resign. They hold her responsible for the harsh treatment of demonstrators, among other things.

What’s our takeaway from these episodes? What can we learn from the Hong Kong Chinese in so far as the handling of mainland China’s designs on them?

No. 1 lesson for us is don’t let the fear of China’s strength guide our actions. As one of their banners proclaimed, “Tyranny is Never Invincible.”

No. 2 lesson is don’t trust China’s word. Talk is cheap to them. Look instead at their actions. What China says is very different from what it does.

No. 3 lesson is stick together; there is safety in numbers. Do you think China would have paid attention if the demonstrators numbered in the hundreds? Well, for that matter, would the world have noticed?

Actually, we had learned Lesson 1 years ago, though not with respect to China, but with respect to the dictator Marcos. He had the guns, the goons, the gold, but we fought anyway during the 1984 and 1986 elections, and we won. And when he tried to claim victory, that’s when we rose together, to prevent him from doing so.

As for Lesson 3, weren’t the Filipino people the first (since the Mahatma Gandhi-led Indian demonstrations in the ’40s against the British) to show the world how to peacefully attain our goals versus a tyrant? It was our Edsa revolution that started the whole ball rolling around the world. How quickly we forget, both what the tyrant did to us, and what we did to overthrow the tyrant.

So Lessons 1 and 3, we actually have learned, but it is stored somewhere in the recesses of our collective memory. So let’s go to Lesson 2.

And it turns out that, although we haven’t applied it to China, we have also learned it, this time from the United States. Remember how the United States screwed us several times—our veterans, for one, right after the war; how they finagled it so we couldn’t change our exchange rate without the permission of the US president (we were already independent, mind you); how they favored Japan over us in the matter of war damages; and how they interfered in our elections.

And also the United Kingdom. They, after all, are responsible for Sabah being claimed by Malaysia. I’ve written about all of these.

But they don’t do it anymore (at least not to my knowledge). The point is that we should know better to put our trust implicitly and explicitly in China, whose history of lying to us in the past 25 or so years has been amply documented, never mind its lying to the world.

The latest example of this is the Chinese ambassador’s ridiculous version of what happened in the Gem-Vir 1 ramming by a Chinese vessel. His version is that the Chinese vessel was “besieged” by Filipino fishing boats, etc., etc. Unfortunately for him, Jay Batongbacal secured a satellite picture of the area at the time, and it showed that the nearest vessels were at least 2 kilometers away.

The photographic evidence showed up the ambassador’s lies. Just as CCTV cameras can show us what really happened—to belie police stories. Just as Justice Antonio Carpio’s old maps show us that China’s claim to the West Philippine Sea is bonkers.

The latest news is that China and the Philippines are going to jointly investigate the hit-and-run. But what would be the point of that if our Executive branch (with the sole exception of Defense Secretary Lorenzana, my hero) has already made up its mind that China’s version is correct? Waste of time.