IF A survey were conducted immediately after President Duterte spoke before the United Nations General Assembly the other night, his approval rating would have gone off the chart.
For once, he stood as the brave and badass leader of every Filipino wanting to assert their rights over vast legitimate Philippine territories in the South China Sea. Slowly but surely, these are gobbled up by might-is-right China, occasionally elicting whimpers or whines far and few between from the government.
Even former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario ecstatically thanked the President for affirming those rights before global leaders. For a long time, the former top diplomat had basically called out the Duterte government for its lack of effort to do so.
To be sure, the less naive in our midst thought Duterte’s speech could have been more forceful and straightforward than nuanced. Former UN Ambassador Lauro Baja said so and, in a rear view perspective, remarked that it would have been better if Duterte did so three years ago.
But he conceded that ,as the Chinese saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. First significant step, Baja qualified.
Indeed, so much water had gone under the bridge since the Philippines was awarded legal rights over territories in the SCS. Or to be more precise, so much has been reclaimed by China as her own, based on a self-serving nine dash line the international law deems a fraud.
Hopes for a new, bolder stance on its position were dashed to smithereens, however, after Presidential Spokeperson Harry Roque made a quick clarification. Nah, you nuts, the President will still set aside the award given by the International Arbitral Tribunal. And that’s for one and no other unspoken reason: China.
In fact, anyone who listened to Duterte’ speech would easily notice how he seemed to gingerly tiptoe on the SCS issue to not rub the wrong way an unseen audience that loomed large probably in his mind. In other words, Duterte’s UN speech can be summed up best by quoting Macbeth: all sound and fury signifying nothing. Leave the idiot part of the soliloquy.
Poor Sen. Ping Lacson was so impressed by the speech that he excitedly tweeted that Duterte is slave no more to China! Sen. Ralph Recto thought the speech was exceptionally good it deserved an Emmy Award.
They spoke too soon. With Roque’s latest interpretation, these guys can eat their hearts out, and weep. Somebody remains wittingly tethered to its bully.The actor of the hour, not the speechwriter, should get the Emmy award instead.
Of course, they have short memories, like many Filipinos. Not too long ago, the same man promised he would take a jet ski to the SCS to assert Philippine rights over its territories in that sea. More recently, they should have been cautioned by their better judgment, that the same man confessed he’s inutile to insist on those rights.
When the national euphora over the celebrated speech was over, it was evident that only Sen. Francis Pangilinan was the only cynic left in the country. Duterte, he said, should walk the talk. Talk is cheap unless you put your money where your mouth is.
So, after Roque’s virtual disclaimer that dampened many people’s newfound enthusiasm, all bets are off. Back to square one. The arbitral award of the country SCS territories stays in the back burner, presumably until the next president who should have “brains” as recommended by former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez comes along.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist, once said a fanatic is one who seeks desired ends while ignoring the constituted means to reach those ends.
In that sense, Duterte’s speech at the UN was that of a fanatic, not one faithful to the Constitution as Del Rosario thought of Duterte in his moment of patriotic jubilation over the President’s glib affirmation.
A story is told of a congregation in a Christian church lively singing an evangelistic hymn titled “Rescue the Perishing”. After the singing, a young boy immediately walked up to the surprised pastor at the pulpit.
“What is it?”, the pastor asked.
The boy replied: Let’s go, pastor, and rescue the perishing.
The pastor softly answered: it’s only a song, boy, it’s only a song.
After all has been said about Duterte’s (in)famous speech before the UN, that’s all there’s to it: a speech and no more than than. It can be compared to an affidavit that states at the end, NOTHING FOLLOWS.
Hopefully, the arbitral award for the Philippines does’t turn out to be an affidavit of loss by the lack of authentic zeal of our leaders to fight for it. So much is increasingly stolen from the Philippines with each passing day, by a passing government that Duterte could not even dare say, for fear or favor, which is in his now unfortunate, speech.