Respect is earned-A A +A
Monday, September 9, 2013
I WAS one of the smallest among my Grade 5 classmates in La Salle, a dark, spindly and bow-legged introverted boy, the kind that bullies love to ... well, bully. It was also my misfortune that we had one in class and he took special delight in making fun of me.
One day, having had more of his ridiculing than I could take, I said things about him that one does not say to a bully. Taking offense, he challenged me to a fist-fight. Cornered, I had no choice but to take him up on his challenge.
We proceeded to the toilet where boy-fights in La Salle were done during those days, aside from down by the creek. We squared off, he kicked me in the chest and I managed to plant a foot in his chest too before, mercifully, the bell rang signaling the start of classes.
When the class ended, I was surprised when he came over to me saying, "Let's not fight anymore." We shook hands and from then on, the bully became my friend.
I remembered this long-forgotten incident after reading how China, contemptuous of the Philippines which it apparently looks down as inferior, has been bullying our country in its grab of ocean territories. It sends fishing boats and vessels securing them into areas that, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) belong to the Philippines and when we file a complaint against it in the U.N., its officials claim "harassment" and threaten to use force on us. China has recently been reported to be dropping concrete blocks near our Panatag Shoal, apparently preparing the foundations upon which to construct buildings, and when we complained, it charged us with provocation.
China claims areas which Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore also lay claims over. It refuses to be subjected to due process under international law, insisting that only a one-on-one negotiation with it is acceptable. Like a bully, it expects everyone to abide by its rules, and not on rules agreed upon by the family of nations, a document which it is itself a signatory.
Of course, I agree that as a signatory to UNCLOS, our government must avail of its due process provisions to attempt to settle our territorial issues with China. That is after all the peaceful and diplomatic recourse. On the other hand, in the same way that I could not have earned the school bully's respect by running to the teacher, we must also take steps to look China directly in the face. If it is really intending to construct buildings along the Panatag Shoal, I say let's put additional structures in the area ourselves. And let's fly more Philippine flags over there.
Although it is probably the second most powerful nation on earth, China cannot afford to use force and violence against the Philippines which is concededly one of the weakest nations on earth militarily. It is this very weakness however that can be placed into a position of strength against a bully like China. It may be alright for it to bellow and rant against us, and to put its foot inside our doorway and challenge us to remove it. It's different if it were to actually use its military might against us, a puny opponent which cannot fight back. Then the whole world, sympathetic with the weak being bullied by the strong becomes its enemy and, powerful as it is, it cannot afford to stand up to the rest of the world. China knows this only too well.
The thing with bullies is that you have to earn their respect. We may look at China as a bully, but wait, what are we doing to earn its respect?
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 09, 2013.