Belief and the judo principle

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By Andy H. Hagad

Bottom Line

Thursday, April 3, 2014


MY UNCLE and namesake, Andy M. Hagad, used to teach judo in our house at Libertad Street. That was during the time I was still in high school. Tito Jun, as we knew him, taught one basic principle in judo that I never forgot. He said judo was the art of using your opponent’s force against him. That is why the stronger he is, the easier he can be beaten. “It’s his own strength, used against him, that will throw him to the ground,” Tito Jun kept repeating.

I remembered this as I watched, fascinated, the unraveling events over the territorial issue which the Philippines and China are presently locked in; over what China calls the “South China Sea,” and what our government calls the “West Philippine Sea.” On a head-to-head confrontation it’s obvious that we can do nothing but roll over and capitulate. China is simply too big and too strong, and it knows it.

But wait a minute! Watch what the Philippines is doing. It’s playing judo! It’s doing exactly what Tito Jun taught – use your enemy’s strength against him.

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China claims “indisputable ownership” over the South China Sea; against claims over portions of the area by not only the Philippines, but by China, Indonesia and Brunei. So what does our Foreign Affairs Office do? It disputes that claim by filing a case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos). We will not go to war with you over the territory, our diplomats tell China; we will just ask the international community to decide how indisputable your claim is – and how valid our own claim is.

China then found itself in a virtually “no-win situation.” If it answers the complaint of the Philippines, it impliedly admits its indisputable claim is, well, disputable. If it does not answer the complaint, the Philippines gains the moral high ground by throwing the dispute into review by an impartial body created by a treaty that both it and China signed.

As the grunts of the giant escalate into threatening growls, our own officials continue to respond quietly and professionally. With each growl they simply file a diplomatic protest with the Chinese Ambassador, as a country who cherishes peace and abhors any form of violence would do, but apparently making sure each time that the protest gets into local and international media. As between the David and the Goliath it’s inevitable where the sympathy will lie.

Probably noting that it was getting the short end of the stick, China decided to be more drastic. It required all ships and planes that pass over the South China Sea to first notify it, and explain to the Chinese Government the reason for the passage or the fly-over. That irked the United States and it promptly sent one of its bombers to fly into the disputed area without asking permission. Apparently caught by surprise China did nothing. What about us? We kept quiet and let the two giants neutralize that new policy. Playing street-smart judo, that’s what we did, again.

In recent months, China decided a little force was already necessary, and it started to drive away Filipino fishermen and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels from the area claimed by the Philippines as its own. Reports say that at some point as many as eight Chinese vessels, including the Coast Guard, were creating a naval blockade. Water cannons were even used against our fishermen. So how did our government respond? Again by using the judo principle.

When it came time to send supplies and relief forces to some Marines standing guard at the Ayungin Shoal, some local and foreign media were allowed to go along on board the BFAR ships. As expected, the Chinese Coast Guard rushed to the scene and tried to block the voyage to Ayungin, straight into the whirring eyes of television cameras. China tried the bully approach, and that’s what the world saw – a bully.

The stronger and richer nation definitely has more resources with which to shove weaker and less wealthy nations aside. But they should learn from Tito Jun Hagad that brute strength is not always an asset. It can be used against you by someone weaker and less endowed. In a conflict, it’s the one who believes the most that it deserves to win that often does.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 03, 2014.

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