I could just imagine why Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese leader of a Spanish expedition, was killed in Mactan 500 years ago. Hubris seems to be the likely reason. When Magellan chose to get embroiled in what some historians say was a local conflict, he must have pricked the natives’ nascent patriotism. One can’t just set aside that matter when talking about a person or a community of people. How many have shed their blood defending their claim of ownership to a piece of land?
I heard someone say that our conflict with China on our ownership of territories in the West Philippine Sea is but the third most important issue in next year’s presidential elections. I don’t buy that. Even now, this has become the most talked-about issue that even a popular pro-China President like Rodrigo Duterte failed to dismiss easily. It has hounded him since China attempted a territorial grab on the Julian Felipe reef.
The issue is also what has made former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio popular to liberals and democrats and a target of the so-called diehard Duterte fanatics or DDS. He has become the “man of the hour, “ especially after the President backed off from the debate challenge he himself initiated. Duterte could not set aside our claim to West Philippine Sea territories in a cavalier manner without his chosen candidate getting a deserved backlash from would-be voters next year. Meaning, this will be the number one issue in next year’s elections. Those who favor China will be hit hard.
Patriotism is not just something incorporated in many provisions of our Constitution. It is taught in schools from kindergarten to college. It is instilled among our soldiers during training. It surfaces every time we sing the national anthem and watch our flag wave at us on the flagpole. It is felt in Manny Pacquiao’s battles in the ring. When overseas Filipino workers hear the national anthem being played in foreign lands, their pride swells and tears well in their eyes.
Love of country transcends all other issues the Duterte administration may want to sell to us. The Chinese Communist Party or CCP misjudged our deep sense of loyalty to our country. As a result, it is now trapped in a dilemma of its own making when it attempted a territorial grab in the Julian Felipe reef. It could not withdraw its ships from the West Philippine Sea to help the Duterte administration save face without acting like it is surrendering its own claim to the area.
And the more Chinese ships maintain their presence in the West Philippine Sea, the more Filipinos will embrace the issue and the more the Duterte camp will be forced to make an anti-China stance to survive politically. This was what happened to Manny Pacquiao, a patriot, when he criticized President Duterte’s stance on the West Philippine Sea dispute. He has gone silent, though, after DDS trolls were unleashed against him and after he was apparently called to task by the party that once forged ties with the CCP and which he now heads (to be continued).