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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

President Duterte is entitled to his opinion about God, but considering that he's Head of State of a deeply religious people, he would be well-advised to keep his rants to himself. Senate Minority Leader Drilon and former National Security Adviser/ex-DND Chief Norberto Gonzalez bat for closer scrutiny of Phil-Chinese relations in view of troubling realities.

President Duterte in an expansive mood---too expansive this time vs. God.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon complains about far lesser FDIs from China, compared to Vietnam's gain.

Former Defense Chief & National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez wants closer scrutiny of enormously increasing Chinese presence in PH


The Philippines’ relationship with China continues to be on the front burner these days. Notably, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and former National Security Adviser and former Defense Secretary Norberto B. Gonzalez have noted the lopsidedness of relations between our two countries and call for rectification measures.

For instance, Sen. Drilon pointed out that Vietnam and Malaysia have enjoyed far more benefits from China than the infinitely more accommodating PH. He stressed that Vietnam has been far more aggressive than we have been in dealing with China in the South China Sea issue, and yet Vietnam has secured foreign direct investments (FDIs) from China of US$2.1 billion, whereas PH only got a measly US$31 million. On the other hand, bilateral trade between China and PH resulted only in US$21.94B, whereas trade between Vietnam and China yielded US$71.85B.

In view of these lopsided realities, Drilon has called for a review of our diplomatic and trade relations with China, and rightly so. It seems that when one is too obliging, one is taken for granted---so true in the China Sea issue. 

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Former National Security Adviser and former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzalez also raised the alarm about China’s motives toward PH in a well-written paper circulated in social media, titled “The Nation Needs a Contingency Plan. A Chinese Invasion?”  Gonzalez echoes what the late Rep. Roilo Golez had been advocating up to his last day on earth. While being interviewed at ANC on this subject, Roy tragically collapsed---a great loss to our country! 

Like Golez, Gonzalez maintains that parts of PH territory in the China Sea “have been occupied, fortified and covered with facilities that are plainly military installations.” With these, he stressed, “China has erected forward operating bases in our territory which definitely pose a serious threat to our national security.”

These are valid claims, but what’s equally interesting is Gonzalez’s reading of President Duterte's public assertion that China’s President Xi Jinping would not allow him to be ousted from power.  Gonzalez cited the opinion of  some international security analysts who tied the President's statement to what appears to be China’s plan for "major intervention" in PH.

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Norberto Gonzalez’s reference to major Chinese intervention has, in turn, given rise to his observation, shared by many in various parts of  this country--- that the Chinese have been leasing properties here to develop into economic zones, among others,  in Cagayan, Bataan and Palawan.

The interesting thing, however, is that while foreign developers of eco-zones normally bring only their technical people and hire locals as rank and file employees, the Chinese are different.  Observers have noticed that in various localities, Chinese lessors are bringing able-bodied people by the hundreds, instead of tapping the abundant domestic labor force, as other nationalities are doing. It has also been noticed that some condominiums in Metro Manila, especially in the less pricey areas, teem with Chinese tenants. 

Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez, in his paper, has advocated that Congress rush legislating a National ID system and its proper implementation.  This seems a wise imperative for Congress---asap please.

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Predictably, many citizens are very upset over recent pronouncements by President Duterte attacking not only the Catholic Church and its bishops and priests, but also God Himself, calling Him “an idiot” and “stupid.” His latest attack appears to have been triggered by protests from the CBCP hierarchy over the unexplained murders of three priests in various localities.  Protests by Church hierarchy over these violent episodes may be justified,  as until now there is no clue to the dastardly slayings.

From excerpts published by the Inquirer, the President has been on attack mode against God and the Church over some time in various places, including in South Korea, before the Filipino community during his recent state visit.  His attacks were also aired in his native Davao City, in Sta Rosa, Laguna, in Cavite, Cebu, among other places.  

No other President has done this sort of thing before.  Mr. Duterte’s  angst, as he admitted openly, is said to have stemmed from his teen years, when he was allegedly fondled by a foreign priest in Davao City. That was a regrettable episode indeed, and there was a time when similar episodes surfaced to capture the citizens' attention---including psychologists and theologians.

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Thus the episode involving what Duterte calls his “rapist” apparently is still very much part of his angst and it has now extended toward God whom he termed "an idiot." Sadly, his attacks are most divisive and unbecoming of a head of State. A former Philippine ambassador to a European country recently observed to me that not even Hitler brought his attacks against the Church to such level. 

The Church as an institution is not perfect---what human endeavor is?---but to attack it in the virulent manner that Mr. Duterte employed is absolutely no gain for him as well as for our country, as it brings the level of discourse to a new low. There is such a thing as good manners and right conduct for ordinary mortals but most especially for the Head of State. Mr. Duterte's rants could be the offshoot of the medicines he is taking and perhaps this should also be addressed.

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Palace apologists insist that Duterte was just exercising freedom of speech when he cursed God---a laugh of a defense as there are limits to any freedom. He could rant and rave in private about his religious beliefs but as head of state, attacking in public the God of the people he serves and who elected him by an unprecedented margin is an absolutely no-no.

Centuries of involvement with the Church and Faith have made Filipinos a deeply religious people.  Their faith and love for God and Church is so rooted in their hearts and psyche, and while outward devotion to the Church may have waned somewhat in the younger generation as a result of modernism and foreign influences, still, it cannot be denied that the vast majority of Filipinos still revere God and the Church that represents Him on this earth.

Attacking them in such a virulent manner is a no-win situation for Mr. Duterte, and Palace apologists terming his tirade “freedom of speech” are desperately plumbing the depths of reason.  



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