Asian Century Journal

An Asian Century Philippines Publication

Bongbong beyond rhetoric

By Mauro Gia Samonte

 

For a time, I’ve confined myself to writing just one column a week, on Saturdays, in conformity with changes in editorial direction by The Manila Times. This time however, I begged to be allowed this one more piece this week (on top of the one that appeared yesterday, Saturday: “The Joker in the WPS battle”) lest the imperative for timeliness would not be met if it were to wait for another week.

 

The Times headline report, “US bound to defense of PH,” opens, “United States President Joe Biden reaffirmed to President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. his country’s “ironclad commitment” to defend the Philippines from an attack by a foreign aggressor.

 

What hypocrisy!

 

Except for the old colonial period, into the advent of neo-colonialism, the Philippines has not been under attack by any foreign country other than the United States. You might say, the Japanese attacked the Philippines during World War II. Naah! Naah! Read the records. The Japanese first bombed Camp John Hay in Baguio, followed by bombings of naval installations in Subic Bay, Zambales, Clark Airfield in Pampanga and Sangley Point in Cavite. None — REPEAT: NONE! — of these targets were Philippine territories but America’s. And when Japanese forces entered Manila in 1942, far from firing their way into the city, they were welcomed by city residents all waving the Japanese flag. And for the next three years of the Japanese occupation of the city, these forces and the Manileños were hobnobbing with one another in shopping centers, sidewalk food stalls and city parks. President Dr. Jose P. Laurel had insisted on declaring Manila an open city and that did all the trick. The Japanese were in the city not as enemies but as friends. Proof: The Republic of the Philippines formed during the period was a government recognized by Japanese authorities all the way up to the Japanese Emperor as an independent nation. No Japanese were allowed in Malacañang. In one or two instances when the Kempetei dared defy this restriction, President Laurel himself bravely blocked their way and drove them away, threatening: “Over my dead body.”

 

Who then destroyed Manila so that it became the most ravaged city in World War II next to Warsaw, Poland? Not the Japanese but the Americans. Despite General Yamashita and his forces having declared Manila an open city and already fled to the mountains of the Cordillera, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in the Far East and leading the so-called liberation forces in Manila, ordered the furious bombing of the city that turned the entire grandeur of the Pearl of the Orient into smithereens, its defenseless citizens slaughtered that at final count reached 200,000.

 

True, there were fierce battles in the countryside before that, but these were fights between the Japanese forces and the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), and if there were Filipinos among these forces, they were not fighting for the Philippines but for America; precisely, they were not Philippine forces but, REPEAT, United States Armed Forces in the Far East.

 

There was the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban Sa Hapon) to be sure, who was fighting the Japanese as well and not under the command of the USAFFE. But rather than prove that the Japanese were attacking the Philippines, the Hukbalahap pictured the nascent communist resistance of Filipino nationalists not particularly against the Japanese but against the emerging world order of neo-colonialism personified by, who else, America!

 

Not many might be aware, but when Bataan surrendered and the USAFFE forces were marched to Capas, Tarlac for detention, only after a short while of processing, General Masaharu Homma ordered all Filipinos in the surrendered forces released, retaining only Americans in detention. And documentary images of the Japanese detention centers elsewhere, particularly the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, showed that none of detainees rescued by the American liberation forces were Filipinos; all were Americans, or otherwise citizens of the Western allies.

 

In the modern era, the Philippines has never been attacked by any foreign power but America!

 

That’s why I must plead this column, if it is to be the last that I shall write in my remaining life. Activities by Bongbong in his working visit to the United States have a way of inculcating in Filipinos values that tend to dampen their inherent nationalist fervor. Those activities have all been good for show: the meeting with top US businessmen, the ringing of the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the speech at the United Nations General Assembly, the audiences with world leaders, particularly the one-on-one with US President Joe Biden where the now questioned hypocritical commitment of defending the Philippines from foreign attack was made.

 

My God, what foreign attack is Biden talking about but the US’s own!

 

And how it hurts, like adding insult to injury, to hear Bongbong declare: “We are your partners, we are your allies, we are your friends…”

 

I am quite far from any comprehension of how diplomacy is conducted, most especially among heads of state. That is, I can never be sure whether what came out of Bongbong’s mouth was an exact reflection of what, as President of the Philippines, his heart felt. If the words of friendly assurances to Biden were spoken from the heart, then God save the Philippines!

 

In the current state of geopolitics, the main contradiction is unquestionably between the United States and the continually soaring economic world power China, with Russia’s military might together with that of North Korea expected to take up China’s cause and India’s own economic ascendancy now overstepping that of the United States, thereby it is expected to be on the side of China in the event of fierce Chinese confrontation with the United States.

 

Given the reality of world politics where developing nations like the Philippines must take sides in a stand-off between the leading powers, did Bongbong have the supreme interest of Filipinos in exchanging “friendly” defensive postures with historically proven Philippine aggressor America? It drew goosebumps all over me to read Bongbong saying to Biden: “We have always considered the United States our partner, our ally, and our friend.”

 

In all of history, the United States has never been a true friend to the Philippines. Just as when the Katipunan was ready to take over Spanish rule in the country in 1898, here comes America snatching through deceit the victory of the Katipuneros. And thereafter, the subsequent 50 years of colonization of the Philippines by America had been done at the cost of massive destruction of farms and properties and 200,000 deaths of Filipinos, among the most gruesome of these being the burning of the entire village of Balangiga in Samar and the massacre of its entire inhabitants, men, women, children, young and old.

 

How I wished Bongbong were his father when in his state visit to the United States in 1982, the elder Marcos told the Press Association of America that what he wanted was a review of the Mutual Defense Treaty, which he said did not actually provide for automatic retaliation by America against a foreign enemy of the Philippines. President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared that in the event of war, the United States will first refer the matter to its Congress, the House of Representatives and then the Senate. “That means delay,” he said, “while we are all dying there.”

 

In my partiality to Bongbong, I always love this quote of him during the memorial for his father in 1989: “I am faced with this awesome responsibility of filling in the shoes of my father.” With his utterances in the US visit, I cannot but begin to entertain doubts whether he is quite fit to fill in his father’s shoes.

 

I had expected him that in his one-on-one with Biden, he would, like his father, be more down-to-earth in asking for fair relationship with America, and one area of achieving this would be a demand, like his father did in the case of the Mutual Defense Treaty, for the abrogation of the unequal treaties that the United States had forced down the throat of the Philippines over the years: the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. But no, instead of abrogation, he even lauded the signing of these treaties.

 

I don’t know how a wise Philippine President would put across to a US President that in the ongoing world hegemonic competition between China and the United States, China is gaining the upper hand and that the United States must reform its ways or perish. But then to be able to do so precisely must constitute the wisdom demanded of Bongbong on the occasion. Did he have such wisdom? During his time, then-President Rodrigo Duterte had the balls to deliver to America its due: “Putanginamo.” And the people eternally adored him for that. This time, Bongbong evidently just failed the test.

 

Records bear China has never colonized the Philippines, but to date China has done to the Philippines what its former colonizer America had been expected to do but never did. As Duterte once proclaimed, “America gave us nothing but laws.”

 

Listening to Bongbong discussing with Biden, I cannot help wishing he had the courage and candor of the former Zimbabwe nationalist leader President Robert Mugabe when in addressing Chinese President Xi Jinping during an audience, he went beyond rhetoric: “…Here is a man representing a country once called poor. A country which never was our colonizer. But there you are, he is doing to us what we expected those who colonized us yesterday to do. Let them listen. If they have ears to hear, let them hear. We will say he is a God-sent person. May God bless China and its people.”

 

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