I HAVE been president of many business, civic and religious organizations to know that when people below are exploding with conflicting irrational screams about an issue, you must wait for all the facts to be in before fixing your position. Like you must be a “bridge over troubled waters.”
The Recto Bank incident exploded a bombshell of anti-Chinese and anti-Duterte sentiments. It does not help that mainstream media, that supposedly know the English language better than most, should add fuel to the fire by using judgmental inflammatory words to describe what (they think?) happened.
That a Chinese boat hit a Filipino boat in Recto Bank is fact. Whether the former rammed (intentionally hit) the latter has still to be verified. Ramming, as English language journalists should know, means intentional hitting for defensive or offensive reasons.
That the Chinese boat did not rescue the fishermen of the stricken boat is another fact. This, however, is highly unusual behavior of members of the brotherhood of the sea and calls for further inquiry. Only one boat was hit. Could the Chinese captain have figured the fishermen are better off being rescued by fellow fishermen in the other boats?
It also seems that the Filipino boat did not really sink and was able to limp, so to speak, back to port. Could it be that it went underwater (but didn’t sink to the bottom) much later and that the Chinese captain left when it was still afloat?
Then the Vietnamese captain who rescued the fishermen admitted to being afraid at first that the foreigners who roused him from sleep with their calls for help might be pirates. Could this perhaps be the same fear that motivated the Chinese captain to get away from the scene of the incident?
In any case, what happened was not a clear-cut ramming as the now conflicting accounts of the ship’s cook and captain would show. A probe is in order to break through the thick cloud of uncertainties and arrive at a fair answer to the question: Was it accident or intentional ramming? If we were that Chinese captain, we certainly would want the benefit of a probe ourselves.
President Duterte, therefore, is wise to wait for all the facts to be in before fixing his position on the issue. His critics can prod him to precipitate action as they can easily wash their hands of the consequences of his decision for which he alone is accountable. He is also strong in the knowledge that he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, that either way his critics will pounce on him.
But he has to be the bridge over troubled Philippine waters, literally and metaphorically. The country can ill afford that he crash down to the turbid waters below with his own irrational outbursts.