I OFTEN hear government officials talk about defeat even before putting up a fight. From President Duterte to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, one can hear variations of the same theme. Filipinos can’t fight for what is rightly ours in the West Philippine Sea against China because the Philippines is weak militarily. It is wrong on two counts: it insults the Filipinos’ willingness to fight for their rights and misjudges the import of the forms of struggle other than the purely military one.
When I wrote the history of Tudela town in the Camotes group of islands and read the writings on pre-colonial Philippines, one thing impressed me of our ancestors at that time: their daring and bravery. Pre-colonial Filipinos have no qualms setting out for war. They chronicled their individual daring in tattoos, which they displayed proudly, thus their tendency to wear the bahag even if they already have full body clothing.
The Spaniards succeeded in suppressing what they termed as the natives’ warlike tendencies through armed might and religion and crafting a more malleable “Filipino” psyche. We recovered that daring in the 1896 revolt but got suppressed once again by the American colonial forces through “education. “ No wonder a big chunk of the Filipino populace prefer subservience over defending our sovereignty.
If the line espoused by Duterte and Enrile was the one that gripped the Vietnamese, Vietnam would have remained subservient to the United States and their war for national liberation would not have succeeded
The US was more of a military superpower than China is now but it was shamed by a people daring to defend their national sovereignty. It wasn’t military might that proved crucial in that triumph but world opinion and pressure by the American people.
In the end, right is might. Or why did Christianity triumph in the end even with the persecution it had to endure through the centuries?
Closer to home, the two rebellions that are now the main problems of the government were launched by people who do not think of surrender even before putting up a fight. How many fighters and weapons did the New People’s Army have when it was formed in 1969? Less than a hundred?
The armed forces under then president Ferdinand Marcos numbered in the tens of thousands at that time. Nur Misuari and his Moro National Liberation Front did get the support of Islamic States but they could not have survived the assault by the Marcos military if their cause wasn’t righteous.
I think government’s biggest fault is its worry about angering the Chinese. Thus, it has refused to talk about our win in the arbitral court on the West Philippine Sea issue and it hesitates in filing diplomatic protests on China’s designs in the area. The problem is that both the arbitral ruling and those diplomatic protests are among the limited options we have in asserting our sovereignty in the disputed territories.
If Lapu-lapu were alive today, he would have winced at our cowardice.