Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing, China. File photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter
residential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made sure members of the media clearly understood what he was about to tell them. According to a recent CNN article, a grinning Panelo told reporters that President Rodrigo Duterte would finally bring up the October 2015 arbitral tribunal ruling when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jin Ping later this month. “This is pursuant to what he said the first time he visited… China. He said there will be a time when I will raise this issue.” With dramatic flair, Panelo continued, “the time has come.”
Despite Panelo’s histrionics, only the most nave and uninformed Filipinos would envision Xi Jin Ping shaking in his boots as The Punisher from Malacaang brings up the UN tribunal’s landmark decision. In truth, Xi probably couldn’t care less what Duterte has to say on the matter.
Through his own words and deeds, Duterte has made himself irrelevant. He stated numerous times that the Philippines would not stand up to China. He said his soldiers would be slaughtered if they fought the Chinese. “I guarantee you, not one of them will come home alive,” Duterte told Filipinos during his State of the Nation address.
Another example of Duterte’s cowering attitude towards China occurred on June 9, 2019. A Chinese Maritime Militia vessel rammed and sank a Filipino fishing boat anchored in Philippine waters. The Chinese didn’t even bother to stop and rescue the 22 Filipinos who were left clinging to floating debris until a Vietnamese fishing vessel rescued them hours later. Duterte played down the incident refusing to lay blame on the Chinese.
Given his apparent fear of Xi et al., it is more likely China’s leaders will simply dismiss anything Duterte has to say. That is if Duterte finds the courage to say anything at all.
Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist, and philosopher must have had someone like Duterte in mind when he said in the 6th century BC, “to subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
It looks like Xi succeeded in breaking Duterte’s resistance without firing a single shot. And like a horse that is finally broken, XI can now saddle up and ride Duterte to his heart’s content. He has nothing to fear from the Philippine leader or his military. Published 8/7/2019