LOST in the brouhaha over the release of thousands of convicts by the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials led by then BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon and his shameless attempt to release former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez which was prevented by public outrage, was the fifth official visit of President Duterte to China.
Days before President Duterte’s most recent trip to China, his subalterns announced that the time has come for him to raise the country’s legal victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This was confirmed by the President in a speech before the Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
The Filipinos, therefore, had every reason to hope that at long last, President Duterte in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing would raise the country’s legal victory in the Hague. During such discussion, China’s baseless claim to the West Philippine Sea, its militarization of seized islands and repeated intrusions into our country’s exclusive economic zone would be raised. But our hopes turned into a national disappointment. Not only was the Hague ruling fleetingly discussed, our President was said to be apologetic to his Chinese host.
According to President Duterte’s spokesperson: “The President said, “I didn’t want to alarm you with what I’m about to raise because of your problem in Hongkong, which is why I’m asking for forgiveness but I need to say this because I promised my countrymen.”
What we cannot understand is why Duterte should be the one who would ask forgiveness instead of the Chinese President whose country repeatedly violated our sovereign rights with its countless intrusions into the Philippine waters, the harassment of Filipino fishermen, the numerous trespassing of its warships into our maritime zone and countless acts of bullying an obsequious neighbor.
If President Duterte was not serious in his promise to the Filipino people that he would raise the country’s legal victory at the Hague, what then was his purpose in having a fifth official visit to China? The rules of transparency demand that the Philippine government must enlighten its people on the following crucial questions:
How much did the taxpayers spend in the latest Duterte pilgrimage to pay obeisance to a foreign power?
If loans were secured from China, how much was incurred and how much is the interest? Why do we prefer loans from China rather than from Japan where the interests are much lower?
If investments were promised by Chinese businessmen, will these not affect our environment and not prejudicial to the rights of indigenous peoples?
And here is the most important question. Why is Duterte so deferential and submissive to China? Borrowing the words of PDI columnist Joel Ruiz Butuyan, “What secrets does China hold against our President that he treats it with the kind of reverence he doesn’t even accord to God?” (By Democrito C. Barcenas)