Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Publishied by Bulatlat

Outsourcing may be a popular business innovation but when applied to politics it becomes an atrocious aberration. Political participation is reduced into voting since we expect mainstream parties to oversee and dominate the bureaucratic political processes. Meanwhile, more and more people are shunning political association as they opt for the convenience provided by social media ranting. But Internet conversations, including the overtly political, can never replace practical and offline political work.

The perils of political outsourcing is best exemplified by the anti-China outbursts in the country today. Understandably, many are voicing out their opposition to Chinese incursions in Philippine territorial waters. Indeed, China’s bullying behavior is intensifying as it continues to deploy oversized quasi-fishing boats inside our maritime borders, it builds semi-permanent facilities in disputed shoals, and it refuses to punish and stop the illegal poaching activities of its citizens. Clearly, China has wantonly violated our sovereignty and precious marine resources. For many environmentalists, China’s complicity in damaging the great Tubbataha Reef is unforgivable.

If there is a strong anti-China sentiment today in the Philippines and in several Southeast Asian countries, China has no one to blame but itself. How can its so-called ‘peaceful rise’ as a superpower become credible if it is continually contradicted by its arrogant behavior towards its neighbors?

But curiously, the loud saber-rattling against China today has not been translated into massive street protests. Thousands have already marched in Japan and South Korea, and anti-China riots involving hundreds of thousands of workers have recently erupted in Vietnam; but in the Philippines the protests have not yet reached these levels.

Worse, instead of focusing on the greater challenge of mobilizing the largest number of Filipinos to march against China, some have preferred instead to blame and accuse the militant Left of treasonously acting in favor of China.

The frustration with the political situation and the country’s weak military position is understandable but the vicious accusations against the Left are lamentable, absurd, and unfair.

Today many are professing hatred against China but it seems not enough to compel them to join rallies in front of the Chinese embassy. There is a noticeable disconnect between the verbal rants against China and the visible protesting warm bodies in the streets. Strangely, many are unwilling to act out their political sentiment. But even more strangely, they want and demand other people to carry out a political action in their behalf. Unable to effectively vent out their anger against the Chinese communist leadership, they targeted local communists instead. Paralyzed by impotent anger, they also forgot that as citizens and members of a particular political group, they are free to organize their own rallies against China with or without the Left.

What is more incredible is that those who had been mockingly opposed to the holding of street rallies are suddenly clamoring for provocative rallies. Those who are squeamish with the Left’s ‘dictatorial’ tendencies are now condescendingly commanding the Left to uncritically follow their specific instructions about the China dispute.

But to set the record straight, the Left has always criticized China’s illegal maritime activities. As a patriotic force, the Left has consistently stood for the defense of our national dignity and sovereignty. And contrary to the lies peddled by its enemies, the Left has repeatedly issued statements and organized rallies to protest China’s bullying antics. Further, Leftist legislators have filed resolutions and delivered privilege speeches denouncing the Chinese government.

So why do some intellectuals continue to insist that the Philippine Left is pro-China?

Perhaps the misapprehension can be partly explained by the Left’s earlier affinity with Chinese communists during the Maoist era. It is no secret that the founding principles of the national democratic revolution are inspired by Maoist teachings. The Philippine Left is also one of the few remaining national movements that continue to affirm and defend the validity of Maoism. For those who are unaware that the core legacies of Mao have been repudiated already by the Chinese Communist Party since 1978, they would be easily susceptible to the propaganda that the Mao-loving Philippine Left is unabashedly pro-China.

Again, it is no secret that the Left became a divided movement in the late 1980s and 1990s. The militant Left that we know today took the position that it was modern revisionism, and not Marxism, which was discredited when the Soviet empire collapsed. In addition, it accused Deng Xiaoping and other senior Chinese communist leaders of being capitalist roaders and revisionists. In other words, the Left was already criticizing the Chinese Communist Party as a traitor to the Marxist cause when many of those who are anti-China today were still praising China’s modernization thrust and integration to the world capitalist system. China’s friend is not the Philippine Left but US imperialism and its junior partner in the country represented by the ruling Liberal Party.

Then there are those who are promoting the military agenda of the U.S. by using the current tension with China to justify the return of US bases in the country. Fortunately, Obama arrived in Manila and reminded Filipinos that his government does not aim to control or counter China. But this categorical declaration by no less than the Commander-in-Chief of the US armed forces was not enough to convince his Filipino loyalists to rethink their position; and they continued to disparage the Left for its refusal to accept the so-called necessity of accepting American support in combating Chinese expansionism.

While the Left will oppose foreign aggression, whether instigated by the Chinese or Americans, it cannot accept the facile thinking that both China and the U.S. represent the same and equal threat to our way of life. China’s transgressions are getting nastier but only the naïve would describe them as equal to or worse than the crimes committed by the U.S.

Which has the biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons? Which has waged numerous wars of aggression in the past century? Which has used its political, military, and economic clout to meddle in our affairs? Which has imposed its fiscal policies to restructure our domestic economy for its own benefit? Which has invaded the country and massacred our people right after we won our freedom from Spanish colonialists? Which used the country’s facilities to attack and poison the lands of Indochina? US Imperialism is clearly the biggest threat not just in the Philippines but in the whole world as well.

This viewpoint, it must be emphasized, it not shared by the Left alone. It is comforting to know that there are still commentators, writers, and academicians who reject the thinking that the Philippines must remain a neocolony of the U.S. in order to assert our rights as a free nation. But lucky for them, they will not be demonized by the state and its ardent supporters who are desperately trying to reduce the nationalist framework into a mere communist agitprop.

So how do we fight the foreign aggressors sans the superior American military hardware? We should invoke the legacy of Claro M Recto, the great Filipino statesman and eminent nationalist intellectual. His was a lone dissenting voice during the early years of the Cold War era in the 1950s. He pushed for an independent foreign policy and warned against the blind acceptance of American altruism. For espousing nationalism, he was vilified as an anti-Filipino and communist sympathizer. Anyway, history has already vindicated him and succeeding governments eventually implemented some of his unpopular demands like restoring bilateral ties with Red China.

More than five decades after his death, Recto and his ideas remain relevant. Tragic that then and now, the government’s foreign policy is still tied to the geopolitical interests of the U.S.

To counteract this nefarious betrayal, as Recto would have reminded us, what we need is a greater dose of nationalism. Nationalism plus an upsurge of radicalism.

Who will fight the Chinese invaders? We, Filipinos.
Who will resist American hegemony? We, Filipinos.

To say that we ought to surrender our complete trust and future to American Benevolence is the supreme example of an unFilipino frame of mind. If our local army continues to act like a puppet as it pathetically begs for US assistance to defend our lands, then perhaps it is time to support another army.

Hate China? Then join the people’s army, strengthen the people’s movement, and be prepared to fight for the motherland.

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