Outside the sheer excitement over the neck-and-neck race, what exactly is at stake for us Filipinos in this US electoral exercise?
I say plenty. To begin with, it’s the fact that the US elections are taking place. We have patterned our representative democracy after the US’. We see that the system works. Perhaps, we could learn more from this latest exercise in terms of how the elections were actually conducted. While it has been bitterly fought, note that both parties stuck it out on the basis of issues.
There was no personal mudslinging and no vote buying as well. Note, too, how the political parties operate. For many Americans, they are often born into their political party. They may cross-political lines later in their lives – but the point is that they have strong political parties owing to the fact that politics in the US is still issue-based. How I wish our politicians could learn from this.
Then, there are the few issues that divide the two presidential candidates. Here, I disagree with columnist Billie Esposo who emphatically wrote that there is a divide between Obama and Romney on the issue of Iran. Truth to tell, on the basis of public pronouncements, both candidates said the same thing about Iran – they would heighten efforts to isolate Iran in order to compel it to drop its ambitions to be a nuclear state. BOTH, though, have declared that a military strike is still an option. If there will be the use of force against Iran that could drag the world into a third world war, it is not because of differences between the two candidates but because of the consistent American policy – that the US will not hesitate to resort to unilateral force against what it perceives as threats to international peace. Unfortunately, the folly in this policy is that it goes against the UN Charter which provides that use of force can only be resorted to by way of self-defense or when authorized by the UN Security Council.
Where the few policy differences relevant to us here in the Philippines lie are in the fields of immigration, human rights, reproductive health, and yes, China.
President Obama has already issued an executive order halting the deportation of children of illegal aliens who have not been convicted of any crimes and have not attained the age of 30. Romney has pledged to make life hell for illegal aliens. Full stop. Obviously, this is the single most important issue for us because we are today the second largest ethnic group in the US, with presumably the second largest number of illegal aliens in the US. Here, a Romney presidency would have caused sleepless nights to many Filipinos in the US and here. Now we can all sleep soundly.
Next is the role of human rights in US foreign policy. Here, President Obama has denied us American military assistance until such time that the Aquino administration has addressed the culture of impunity brought about by thousands of cases of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances. Here, I’m sure the PNoy administration would prefer a Romney presidency because either way you look at it, Aquino needs the military assistance divorced from the issue of human rights. Aquino has referred to the issue of human rights violations as “left propaganda”.
Then there’s reproductive health. Here, the Philippine Catholic Church and their devotees would like to see a Romney presidency since he has vowed to put an end to all federal funding to artificial birth control, including abortions. In fact, he has gone on to state that he would want the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs, Wade, the landmark case that legitimized abortions in the US. Here, I am so sure that the CBCP, Tita De Villa and Jo Imbong are still praying for a miracle to bring about a Romney victory.
Finally, there is the issue of China. Obama has consistently said that the US interest in the West Philippine Sea is to safeguard freedom of navigation in area. This is why he has frustrated PNoy since he has said that he will not get involved with our intramurals with China. Romney, on the other hand, would probably be the friend that PNoy wants against China. The latter views China’s recent economic and military rise as a threat to the United States. A Romney presidency would have been more aggressive against China. Let us hope now that a more aggressive stance is unnecessary with a new Chinese leader, as well.
America is now an ex-superpower. First, it ceased to be the biggest economy in the world. It is now only the second-biggest economy. China has long overtaken it and the tables have been turned. Communist China has not only become an economic tiger; it has also become the biggest creditor of capitalist America.
And the decline of superpower America goes beyond economics. With China’s recent foray into bullyism (yes, I invented that word) in the West Philippines Sea, it has allowed China to challenge its pre-eminence in the Pacific front. This used to be its bastion since World War II. This was why despite granting the Philippines nominal independence, it insisted on utilizing the country as an unsinkable military carrier with take-off points at Clark and Subic. These were bases that used to be its biggest military installations outside the mainland US.
Today, it is longer the US Navy that is feared in this part of the world. It is now the Chinese Navy that lords it over in these waters. First it took possession of Mischief Reef in the disputed Kalayaan groups of islands from Filipino soldiers then assigned in the island. Today, it has effectively driven away all Filipino presence in Panatag Shoal, an area that is literally the backwaters of the province of Zambales. And if the respected journalist Chito Santamaria is correct, China is not just interested in the fishing waters around Panatag. The real battleground, according to Chito, is Recto Bank where Manny Pangilinan is about to drill for oil.
Amidst this newfound Chinese expansionism, where is America? Well, at the first sign of a conflict, Hilary Clinton declared that it would take a neutral stance and urged a peaceful settlement of the dispute. Later, when the standoff persisted, she declared during a US Senate concurrence hearing on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that China’s claims to the vast waters of the West Philippine Sea exceeded what is allowed under international law. And recently, when President Noynoy Aquino went to the US begging anew for help, no less than President Barack Obama was clearly non-committal. This is apparent in a White House release after the meeting between Obama and PNoy stating, among others, that the two leaders merely agreed on “firm support for a collaborative diplomatic process among claimants to resolve territorial disputes in a manner consistent with international law and without coercion or the use of force.”
Make no mistake about it. Uncle Joe can’t be counted upon to deal with China- the bully.
Central to American foreign policy is that as the lone superpower of the world, it can be counted upon to maintain peace and order in this planet. At the very least, if its economic woes have become so bad that it can no longer play the role of superman, it should have sufficient resources to stand by its long-standing ally when needed. But no, nowadays, the American position is for its allies to swim or sink. Full stop.
This is not to say that the American position is wrong. I for one have never believed that mother America will ever come to our rescue solely to defend our interests. This is why I have been a long supporter of the likes of Claro M. Recto and Jovito R. Salonga, who believed no one can be counted to uphold Philippine interest but us -Filipinos.
Still, this lackadaisical manner by which America seems to regard the recent threat of Chinese expansionism is a major change in its foreign policy.
Make no mistake about it. While America couldn’t care less about the West Philippine Sea, it will come back to Subic and Clark not to defend us; but to uphold its own national interest. This is why it is in the process of sending 60 percent of its navy forces to Asia. Malacañang, I’m sure would want to take credit for this. But nope, this has been in the offing even before our recent controversy with China. At most, perhaps, the actual deployment of these forces to Asia was hastened by the dispute. They will come though not because Scarborough and the Spratly islands are ours. They will come because China’s claims to these territories may precisely hinder deployment of their ships into these waters.
We, unfortunately, are irrelevant to their policy.
Anger as Philippines says will skip Nobel ceremony
AFP – Thursday, December 9SendIM StoryPrint
MANILA (AFP) – – The Philippines confirmed on Thursday it would skip the Nobel peace prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo following pressure from China, triggering anger from human rights advocates.
The decision by one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies to stay away from Friday’s event in Norway comes as it seeks to build stronger military and economic ties with communist China.
“It is confirmed that there will be no Philippine official at the ceremony,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya told AFP.
He said Manila’s envoy to Oslo, Elizabeth Buencuceso, was out of Norway on an official consular mission.
“Our ambassador to Norway has a scheduling conflict,” he said.
However two senior government officials who did not want to be named said the move was meant to appease China, which had repeatedly warned governments around the world that ties would be harmed if they attended the ceremony.
China reacted furiously to the decision by the Nobel Committee to award this year’s peace prize to Liu, who was jailed for 11 years last December on subversion charges after calling for reform of one-party communist rule. Related article: US pressured China to release dissident: cables
“We do not want to further annoy China,” said a senior diplomat at the Philippines’ foreign affairs department who asked not to be named.
President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman, Herminiano Coloma, declined to comment when contacted by AFP about the decision, referring all queries to the foreign affairs department.
But another presidential palace official said Aquino “did not want another irritant” in his government’s ties with China.
The Philippines has been working hard to repair diplomatic ties with China following the botched ending of a bus hijacking incident in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in August. Related article: Rights groups push for Nobel laureate’s release
The Philippines is also seeking to buy military hardware from China — the nation’s armed forces chief, General Ricardo David, is in Beijing this week on a procurement mission.
Trade between the countries has been expanding since the 1990s, with China now the Philippines’ third largest trading partner next to the United States and Japan.
Human Rights Watch said it was “shocked and disappointed” at the Philippine decision, especially as the country had always been a leading supporter of Myanmar’s democracy heroine Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a Nobel laureate.
“The Philippines prides itself on its democratic values, which is why it is shocking to see this government turning its back on Liu Xiaobo’s non-violent struggle for free expression in China,” said Elaine Pearson, the group’s deputy Asia director.
“By declining the invitation to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Philippines is failing to live up to its promises to promote human rights in Asia.”
Lawyer Harry Roque, chair of the Manila-based Center for International Law, also expressed outrage.
“We should not have allowed China into bullying us not to attend the ceremony. This is an abdication of our moral duty to the world as the source of people power, of liberal democracy,” Roque told AFP.
“That was a regrettable decision, because in effect what we did was to support an affront on freedom of expression.”
Calls to the Chinese embassy spokesman in Manila went unanswered on Thursday.
Vietnam and Afghanistan are other Asian nations to have declined to attend Friday’s ceremony in Oslo. Related article: Pressure mounts on Serbia to reconsider Nobel boycott